One of the things that you should know about Korea if you are planning to visit or move there is that conventional map applications like Google Maps and Apple Maps do not work in Korea. Or rather, they do work but inaccurately. One of the few applications that you can use to navigate Korea is Naver Maps – in fact they only work in Korea and nowhere else in the world.
Naver Maps is a very powerful application in Korea that you can use not just to navigate but also to check bus timings, check which bus stop all the buses are currently at, estimate the cost of taking a taxi to your destination, finding out how much it will cost to use public transport and even find the menu of (most of) restaurants in Seoul. The only drawback is that it is only available in Korean and hence some basic ability to at least read Korean will be needed.
If you can’t read 한글 (Hangeul), go to this website and take some time to learn – it will be extra helpful if you are planning to go to Korea regardless of whether you want to learn how to use Naver Maps. Reading Korean is really easy after you have memorised the 24 basic letters, 27 derivatives and some rules on how to use these characters. If you ever take Korean class, the first 3 or 4 lessons will always be about reading Hangeul.
Once you have learned how to read, here’s a list of words you need to memorise to use Naver Maps:
- 지도 – Map
- 길찾기 – Direction finder
- 출발 – Depart
- 도착 – Arrive
- 내 위치 – My location
- 약 (X)분 – About (X) minutes
- 버스 – Bus
- 버스정류장 – Bus stop
- 지하철 – Subway
- 지하철역 – Subway station
- 도보 – Walk
- 택시 – Taxi
- 택시비 약 (X)원 – Taxi fare about (X)KRW
Other words you will need to know is the name of the places you want to go to in Hangeul. This can be easily found by Googling. If you have all these checked, you are set to use Naver Maps!
Using Naver Maps
These screenshots are taken from the iOS version of Naver Maps. It should be sort of similar with the one in the Android version except for a few changes in the location of the button.
When you first open Naver map, you will see the page below (지도 or Map page). Type your destination (in Hangeul) in the search bar highlighted by red circle.
Let’s say I want to go to Gyeongbokgung Palace, I will type in “경복궁” in the search bar and the following screen will appear:
The next step is to indicate that this is where you wish to arrive at by clicking “도착” as highlighted in the red circle above. Once you have clicked the 도착 button, it will bring you to the 길찾기 page (Direction finder page) below:
This is where you will input your starting or departure point in the search box in the red circle. This 길찾기 page will also show you your past searches underneath. Hence when you are searching for the same route you recently took, you can just click the relevant past history and the results will immediately appear without you typing your starting and end point all over again.
Anyway, when you click on the search box to input your starting point, you will see this screen:
If the place that you are currently at is the place of departure (which is usually the case), simply click “내 위치” button highlighted by the red circle and Naver will immediately populate the start point. If not, you can also manually input the address or name of place that you are currently at and then choose the most relevant starting point from the results. Alternatively, click the button in the purple circle and just manually adjust the pin on the map to input the starting point.
Once you have indicated your starting point, you will be brought back to the 길찾기 page:
If both the starting point (top box) and the destination (lower box) is correct, go ahead and click the button in the red circle to see the different ways you can use to get to where you want to go. This button will show you what combination of public transportation will be the best way to reach your destination. If you want to drive, click the car icon right next to it. Let’s say I clicked the public transportation button, this is what I will see next:
This page will show you several things: the different routes you can use to get to your destination, the bus number or subway line that you need to take, the bus stop or subway stop you need to go to to board the bus or subway, the name of the destination’s nearest bus or subway stop, the number of bus and subway stops to your destination, the time and distance needed to travel there and the cost. That’s a lot of information in one page right? I guess that’s why Naver Maps is so powerful in Korea.
So let me break it down for you. If you look at the image above, on each route option you will see numbers next to blue “가선” boxes – these are bus numbers. Then you will see words in the bracket – these are the name of the bus stop to board the bus. The name after the “>” is the bus stop name to alight, listen or look out for this bus stop name while you are on the bus and press the stop button on the bus if it’s coming up next.
On the second line, you will see “버스정류장 (X)” – this indicates how many bus stops you will need to pass to get to your destination and “약 (X)km” shows the distance to your destination. On the last line, the first number in red shows how long the bus ride will take and the second red number shows how much the trip will cost using T-Money (Transportation card in Korea). If there is a “도보” bracket next to the red number, it shows how many minutes you will need to walk if you choose that route.
If your options show you other icons than the blue “가선” boxes, it’s most likely telling you to take the subway. In the last image, there is an icon with a 5 in a purple circle – this signifies Seoul’s subway line 5. The name next to the icon is the name of the station you will need to board the train and again the name after the “>” shows you the name of the subway station to stop at.
After you have chosen which route you want to take, click the route and you will see this page:
This is an even more detailed page explaining the route you chose. The words circled in red will show you when the next bus will be arriving at the bus stop you are boarding at. If it shows the words like in the picture, it means that you have missed the last train.
If you are not good with words, click the green “지도” near the top right side of the screen and it will show you the route on the map like how Google Map works. From there one, you can just read the map as how you read Google Maps.
If you ever choose to use the subway, Naver maps is very useful because they will even tell and show you in the map which exit you need to take to get to your destination, unlike Google Maps. Another useful tip that I learned is that if you click on the “노선” button at the route explanation page on the line where it tells you to take the bus (circled in pink), you can see where is the upcoming bus currently at. It will show you this page:
The line that is highlighted in light blue is the bus stop you are boarding at and the buses on the line shows where the buses are currently at. The above image shows that the bus has passed the bus stop where I will be boarding and is currently in between 2 stops. It also shows that there are no nearby buses coming to my bus stop soon.
Now you can safely navigate your way through Korea with Naver Maps 😉 hope this helps make your travelling in Korea a smoother one!