▲ The buses certainly add some color to Jeju's roads. Photo courtesy Jeju Tourism Association
Jeju Golden Bus City Tourmade its first ever departure from Jeju Welcome Center on Tuesday Nov. 11 in an attempt to improve tourist bus services on the island. Twelve departures per day will leave Shin Jeju, stopping at 22 tourist sites, hotels and transport hubs across Jeju City.
To woo the Chinese, who are expected to comprise 80 percent of the passengers, the Hyundai buses are golden, as is the clothing of the driver and guide. The guides travel on the buses with passengers and all four (one per bus) are said to handle basic English, while three also speak in Japanese and the other Chinese.
Aside from the guides, each seat has a personal audio set with introductions to each of the bus stops in four languages. The televisions overhead should also provide visual guides, although these had not yet been installed on the day of my trip.
The bus itself was extremely comfortable and the driver and guide were both extremely personable, although with only basic English. After reverting to Korean, we really got on well for the short trip and I think this will make the bus more attractive to Chinese and Japanese passengers.
Among the 22 stops across the city, 12 are hotels or transport hubs. While the established Jeju City Tour Bus concentrates on getting tourists to Jeju’s attractions, this bus seems a mixture of transit and sightseeing, and at 1-hour intervals it might find it hard to compete with quicker, more comfortable and similarly priced taxis.
This is compounded by the fact the bus travels between Shin (New) and Gu (Old) Jeju, ploughing a route through a fairly compact zone, particularly in the older parts of town frequented by many cruise passengers.
A major attraction of tour buses over taxis is their convenience and price, yet it seems Jeju Golden Bus City Tour is more inconvenient, and on a par for price. The attractions are worth seeing, but in-the-know tourists might opt for other modes of transport to see them.
▲ The bus stops are dominated by hotels and transport hubs, making the bus less attractive to tourists.
Ticket discounts not yet available
On the subject of price, tickets are 12,000 won for adults and 10,000 won for children (with a 1,000 won discount available online). To compensate for the price, passengers are promised discounts at participating attractions and also shops, such as at the Underground Shopping Mall, and the markets.
Despite the promises, on the day of boarding the bus (Nov. 21) I was told not many participating outlets had yet been found. When I visited Dongmun Market, none of the vendors was aware of the tour bus, nevermind the discounts I was supposed to enjoy.
Similarly, when I tried to enter Jeju Folk Museum of Natural History I was asked to pay the full ticket price, despite my trusty golden ticket.
These problems should be quickly addressed as they detract from the ticket value.
At the time of taking the bus the website was not fully translated and Google Translate provided English, Chinese and Japanese.
The page is now, thankfully, almost fully translated, but issues remain, including the fact the bus schedule and destination descriptions are in Korean, even when buying a ticket.
I was also unable to complete the purchase using the Chrome web browser, and had to use Internet Explorer.
Bearing in mind these teething problems, plus the more fundamental problems associated with the tour earlier outlined, the bus fails to significantly improve Jeju’s tour bus options.
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