How to find bus routes in Korea (and why Daum Maps is better than Naver Maps)

The bus system in Korea is great. The only problem is: figuring it all out.

Besides the Jeonju City Bus Route Guide that I put together (which only includes all the mapped routes for each bus number), the best resource I’ve found to use for figuring out bus routes is Daum Maps.

In fact, Daum maps is incredibly useful in any city in Korea – not just Jeonju. With this post today, I hope to help you learn how best to use Daum Maps to plan your adventures.

Why Daum Maps over Naver Maps?

Here’s an image showing the two mapping programs side-by-side (with the same location and zoom settings).

Naver and Daum Maps side-by-side

There are actually THREE things that make me prefer Daum Maps to Naver Maps in this case:

1. Daum Maps dynamically resizes (no scroll bars)

As you can see from the image, Daum Maps dynamically resizes according to your browser window size. But Naver Maps seems to require a minimum window size in order to see everything (i.e. it has scroll bars and Daum Maps doesn’t have scroll bars).

2. Daum Maps includes bus icons automatically

Daum Maps automatically includes these nice little bus icons daum-maps-bus-icon at the initial load and zoom settings. (Naver Maps opens at one zoom level farther away, and although you can turn on their bus icons, it’s nice to just have them from the start).

3. Daum Maps has better popup boxes

Naver and Daum Maps popup boxes

If you actually click the bus icons on both maps (see image above), Daum Maps has a better design for the popup information box. Each bus number includes a much longer title that tells the beginning and ending locations, and it also includes the current time to destination for each bus (these literally, dynamically update if you sit there and watch them for a few seconds).

4. Daum Maps’ popup boxes are more informative

If you click on the bus numbers within the popup boxes, Naver Maps merely highlights the bus route, but doesn’t provide further details (and the popup box just closes). However, if you click the bus number in Daum Maps, it brings up another popup box with a scrollable list with all the bus stops on that route (and even some traffic directions like that U-turn mark).

Naver and Daum Maps popups 2

Daum’s second popup box includes all know information regarding that bus route, but Naver just draws a line. (And if you really want to see that route line in Daum Maps, there’s a way to do that too – I’ll show you that later).

The Clumsy Way to Find a Bus Route

Daum maps bus popup list

It is possible to figure out your own bus routes by simply locating your starting point and ending destination and clicking around on all the nearby bus icons of each to see which bus numbers match up. In fact, I used to do it that way before figuring out the more elegant solution.

Of course, clicking around on the icons is cool and all because you can see which bus routes stop at which stops, but it loses relevance when none of the bus routes match up (i.e. when you have to transfer). Also, if you want to make this a multiple-stop bus tour, it’s going to take you just as long to click around on the icons and figure it out on your own as it will to just get on a bus and ride it. Enter: the Elegant Solution.

The Elegant Way to Find a Bus Route

Daum Maps startup

When you first load Daum Maps, you’ll notice two thing that are going on in the top, left portion of the screen:

  1. There’s a menu-like sidebar with tabs. (You’ll need to click the “길찾기” (Route Finder) tab (the second one) to search for your route.)
  2. There’s a neat red flag icon on top of the top, left map corner (and if you mouse over it, it becomes three: a red one, a green one, and a blue one).
    Daum destination icons
How to use the Flags

In order to use the flags, you’ll need to know what they mean:

  1. Red 출발 = Departure location
  2. Green 경유 = Via (this flag only works for car routes, not bus routes)
  3. Blue 도착 = Arrival location

Using the flags is a simple matter of clicking and dragging them to where you want to go. A route will automatically be calculated and highlighted. Simple!

Switch to the bus routes

But the default is the car route. To get the bus route, you’ll need to click:

  1. The second button under the search bars (called 대중교통).
  2. The second radio button under that (called 버스 (#)). The number after 버스 indicates how many routes are available.

Finally, you’ll see a list of routes that looks like this! Go ahead and click through them to see which one you prefer.

Daum Maps bus routes

Note: at the bottom of each route button, you can see the total time your trip will take (약 17분 (도보5분) = 17 minutes by bus (5 minutes by foot)), and the total distance of the trip (4.1km).

  • If walking is required, that path will be highlighted by a dotted line.
  • If a transfer is required, it will be indicated by a small speech bubble mid-route (3-2 is shown below).

Finished Daum Map bus route

Show a full bus route

P.S. Remember how I said you could see a whole bus route in Daum Maps? It’s simple, just click the 3rd tab, next to your “Route Finder” tab (the one that says 실시간버스).Then, simply type in the number of any bus route, and click the relevant button that comes up. Easy, right?

Guess that makes that whole Jeonju City Bus Route Guide pretty irrelevant now that you can do all that in an instant on the Internet…^^

Jeonju City Bus Route 119

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    1. Coming soon. I did notice that Daum has recently updated it to include some interesting widgets as well. I’ll see what I can figure out with it, then give it a nice post within a few weeks. Will be traveling this weekend too, so that’ll help me have a good excuse to use it. ^^

    1. I haven’t seen one yet, and I pretty much doubt it. You have to consider at least three things when wondering about that:

      1. How many people in Jeonju speak English well enough to develop something like that?
      2. How many English speakers in Jeonju can code smart phone apps well enough to create something with the complexity of the Daum and Naver apps? (Or even with limited complexity)
      3. How many English-speaking smart phone app coders in Jeonju would want to put in that kind of time and effort on a FREE app?

      And one more question to consider would be: If the above three questions are all “none” than would there be anyone OUTSIDE Jeonju (say in Seoul) who would have enough interest in Jeonju, time, and skill to do it either? Probably not.

      I’ll say (from my experience as a WordPress developer), learning coding and creating something big and useful is no easy task and usually coders look for projects that will maximize either their portfolio, their experience, their impact, or their bank accounts. Unfortunately, I doubt creating an English bus map app would do any of those.

      Even if I knew how to make something like that, I would also have to think about the reach and impact of such an app. There are probably less than 1,000 English speakers in Jeonju right now. Probably (roughly) 50% of them are Android users and 50% iPhone users (but that’s not considering how many people DON’T have smart phones). So which should I develop? Or which one first? If I guess that only about 300 people actually COULD download such an app, how many would want to? There are plenty of foreigners who are happy to use Korean (and the Korean apps would be far less buggy). So, I could assume that (on a good day) only about 100 people would ever download and use an English Jeonju bus maps app.

      And that’s probably why one doesn’t exist yet. Unless the Jeonju Tourism Board or City Hall or some other large entity puts some serious backing behind something like that, it’ll probably never be built.

      Sorry for the long answer, but that’s how my computer developer brain thinks about things like this. Hope it helps~

    1. I just checked version 3.9.2 (the latest one as of November 21, 2014) and my Settings Menu and Search Bars for Starting Location and Destination are in English. But that’s probably because they made the map app use your phone’s system language to display those things. I’m sure you still need to search in Korean and find your destinations in Korean. That’s because it’s a Korean app and much easier to use the actual Korean spelling of places rather than try to account for the various spellings English translations of Korean words might entail.

      Good luck!~

  1. I was finding some informations about Korean public transportation in a foreigner view to provide it to my friends from other countries. and it’s really helpful. Thanks very much! i think this is more practical than others. :)))))

    1. When I originally got to Korea (and when I wrote the post), Google maps didn’t offer nearly as many features nor as much information as Daum or Naver maps. Honestly, I prefer Google for most things (especially search), but I still feel like Naver and Daum have the most updated maps for Korea – and I think they update more quickly than Google as well (new buildings and streets are constantly popping up around here).

  2. On Daum maps, how do you toggle on the flag icons used to set the beginning and ending for directions? I used to be able to drag the flags to locations on the map and voila! a route was provided. I love it. Now, after I had computer problems and I am coming back on line, things aren’t quite as they were; there is no flag icon in the upper left on the map.

    1. They still have the flags in the top left corner of the map (just checked today) – above the bus icon. There should be a single red flag which is a hover button. If you put your mouse on that button, it expands to show the other flags as well. Then drag and drop on the map as usual. If you don’t see those, make sure you are using an updated Internet browser (I prefer Google Chrome).


  1. Jeonju City Bus Routes Guidebook | Key to Korean
  2. Hands down the BEST way to transfer money home from Korea | Key to Korean

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