In an effort to increase tourism in their regions, many provincial governments have begun to offer special services to international guests. Lucky us! One such example is the Gangwon Shuttle Service sponsored by Gangwon Province. This shuttle bus is a great way for foreigners to experience Korea's most breathtaking natural landmarks as well as some of its best festivals.
The bus operates on a lottery system, as seats are limited, but it seems that the masses have not yet discovered this fantastic service, as there are almost always available seats. Still, guests are encouraged to book a few weeks in advance to ensure a spot. The cost is 5,000 won ($5USD) for a round trip ticket, which is a STEAL, and the bus goes directly to the destination rather than a bus terminal like the inner-city buses do. Also, the bus departs from Gwanghwamun Square in downtown Seoul, making it convenient for travelers and foreign residents alike. Additionally, guests can opt to return to Seoul on the same day or stay overnight, depending on their travel preferences.
I first used this service back in January when I traveled to Hwacheon for the Sancheoneo Ice Festival and once again a few weeks ago to get away from the city and wander around Seoraksan National Park in Sokcho. Although guests are on their own when they arrive at the shuttle's destination, the guides are very helpful in explaining the destinations and answering any questions passengers may have.
It seems that the shuttle has added a number of Gangwon cities and festivals to its travel itinerary from now until January 2015. The destinations change each week, which is great for those hoping to see a lot of the province. Although I'll be the first to admit I haven't heard of some of the events on the list, they seem intriguing, nonetheless. A few that stick out are Cheolwon's Real DMZ Project, Sokcho's Korea Music Festival (K-pop concerts) and Yangyang's Salmon Festival. For a complete listing of dates and festivals, click here.
Finally, there are a few tips to follow to ensure a pleasant trip on the Gangwon Shuttle Service:
- Remember to bring your printed confirmation ticket and your passport to prove your foreigner status when you board.
- Book your seat at least two weeks prior to your desired departure date to ensure a spot on the bus.
- There's no bathroom on the bus, so be sure to take care of your business ahead of time.
- Out of respect for others, eating is not permitted on the shuttle. Be sure to eat before boarding. There are a few convenience stores where you can grab a breakfast snack near the Dongwha Duty Free Shop in Gwanghwamun.
- Take lots of pictures and enjoy the beauty of Korea!