Kyoto has two subway lines. The Tozai Line goes across the city from east to west and the Karasuma-dori Line runs from north to south. Transferring lines is possible at Karasuma Oike Station where they cross. The Tozai Line also connects with the Keihan Line, which runs north-south parallel to the Kamogawa River and can be used to access Gion, southern Kyoto, and several east side attractions.
Kyoto’s subways are easy to navigate and make for convenient transportation but are limited to the area around the city center. Fares are from 210 – 340 yen depending on distance and a one-day subway pass costs 600 yen. Subways run from 5:30 am – 11:30 pm.
Several different train lines operate throughout Kyoto and they are a good way to get to attractions outside the city. Transfer tickets between lines can be purchased at ticket machines and all stops are listed in English.
JR Kyoto Station is the city’s main train terminal and all of the JR lines pass through. The JR Sagano Line travels from Kyoto Station to Arashiyama in the west, while the JR Nara Line is good for visiting attractions in southern Kyoto, such as Byodoin and Fushimi Inari Shrine. The JR Kyoto Line runs through the southwest.
Some of the express trains don’t stop at all of the stations so make sure to check what stations a train stops at before getting on.
The Keihan Line runs from north to south parallel to the Kamogawa River and is a good option for getting to attractions in eastern Kyoto. Although it does not stop at Kyoto Station, the Keihan Line travels south to Osaka and is a good alternative for people in eastern Kyoto traveling there.
Keifuku Railways operates two tram lines in Kyoto, called the Keifuku Kitano Line and the Keifuku Railway Arashiyama Line. They are a scenic way to travel to attractions in the northwest part of the city, including Arashiyama, Ryoan-ji, and Kinkaku-ji.
The Eizan lines begin across the street from Demachi Yanagi Station on the Keihan Line, near the northeast corner of the Imperial Palace. The train eventually branches off with one line going to Kurama and the other to Mount Hiezan, so be sure to check the final destination before boarding.
The Hankyu Line is a convenient way to access Katsura Rikyu and Arashiyama. The Hankyu Kyoto Line begins downtown at Shijo-Kawaramachi and goes to Katsura Station, where you can change to the Kankyu Arashiyama Line. Alternately, you can stay on the Kyoto Line and continue on to Osaka and Kobe.
The Kintestu Kyoto Line starts front the south side of Kyoto Station and runs to Nara. There are several destination options so be sure to check before boarding.
Kyoto has a good bus system with signs and announcements in English. Most buses leave from Kyoto Station, though some depart from Sanjo-Kawabata Station near the Sanjo Keihan Station on the subway’s Tozai Line.
While some of Kyoto’s attractions are serviced by the train and subway lines, many of those on the outskirts can only be reached by car or bus. As such, roads and buses to top tourist attractions tend to get crowded on weekends and holidays.
Passengers get on the bus through the back door. If there is a ticket machine, take a ticket as you board. Fares are paid when you get off the bus. Drop your fare (and ticket if you have one) into the payment box next to the driver. To use a card, insert it into the card reader and check the fare on the chart by the exit.
There is a flat rate of 220 yen for traveling inside central Kyoto (children are half price). For places outside the flat-rate area, the price increases according to distance.
The municipal office publishes a Kyoto bus map called Bus Navi that has the bus route and fare information to most of the city’s main attractions in English. Bus Navi is available at Kyoto Station’s information center.
Raku Bus is a bus for foreign tourists going to city attractions. They don’t stop at many of the regular stops and are often faster than other buses. Raku buses travel city routes 100, 101, and 102, and have a flat fare of 220 yen per ride.
Route 100 travels from Kyoto Station to Higashiyama and Okazaki, stopping at Sanjusangen-do Temple, Kyomizu-dera Temple, Yasaka-jinja Shrine, Heian-jingu Shrine, Eikan-do Temple, Nazen-ji Temple, Ginkaku-ji Temple.
Route 101 goes from Kyoto Station to Nijo Castle, Nishijin Textile Center, Kitano Tenmangu Shrine, Kinkaku-ji Temple, and Daitoku-ji Temple. Transfer to the Keifuku Railway Line towards Arashiyama is possible at Kitano Hakubai-cho.
Route 102 travels from Ginkakuji-michi to the Kyoto Imperial Palace, Nishijin Textile Center, Kitano Tenmangu Shrine, Kinkaku-ji Temple, and Daitoku-ji Temple. The bus connects with the Keifuku Railway and the Eizan Railway lines.
Raku buses have themes of the different seasons and are easy to spot.
One-day bus passes are available for 500 yen for adults and 250 yen for children. These passes give you unlimited bus travel for a day and can be purchased directly from bus drivers or from Kyoto Station’s information center.
For 1,200 yen, you can get a combined subway/bus pass that gives you unlimited travel for a day on both the bus and subway.
Kyoto has several kinds of daily passes that offer unlimited travel on the subway and city buses.
The Kyoto Sightseeing Card is good for unlimited travel on Kyoto City Buses, Kyoto Buses and both subway lines. A one day pass costs 1,200 yen (children 600 yen) and a two-day pass, which must be used on two consecutive days, goes for 2,000 yen (children 1,000 yen).
This pass is good for unlimited travel on Kyoto City Buses in central Kyoto for one day. Note that outlying areas such as Arashiyama are not included. A one-day pass costs 500 yen (children 250 yen).
This pass is good for unlimited use of the two Kyoto subway lines for one day. The price is 600 yen.
These tickets are good for unlimited travel on Keifuku Dentetsu Arashiyama lines for one day. The price is 500 yen (children 250 yen) and tickets can be purchased at ticket counters at Shijo Ohmiya, Arashiyama, Kitano Shiraume-cho, Katabiranotsuji, and Kyoto hotels.
A special ticket that includes entry to Hogon-in at Tenryu-ji Temple is available for 900 yen.
These Kansai area tickets are good for travel on subways, private train lines, and buses – just about everything other than JR lines. Two-day passes cost 3,800 yen (children 1,900 yen) and are good for two consecutive days of unlimited travel in Kyoto, Osaka, Nara, Kobe, and Wakayama. Three-day tickets are good for three consecutive days of travel and cost 5,000 yen (children 2,500 yen).
These Surutto Tickets are for foreigners and you must have your passport to buy one. Certain temples and other attractions in Kyoto offer special discounts or privileges for people holding these tickets.
Kyoto has two prepaid cards for riding buses, subways, and some trains.
This card can be used for travel on city buses and subways, Hankyu trains, Keihan trains, and some other private train lines. Note that it cannot be used on JR trains. The card is also known as the K Card and Lagare Card and comes in denominations of 1,000 yen, 2,000 yen, 3,000 yen, and 5,000 yen.
This card is good for travel on city buses and subways and offers a 10% bonus in value. They come in denominations of 1,000 yen and 3,000 yen, which can be used for 1,100 yen and 3,300 yen worth of travel respectively.
Kyoto’s grid layout makes it easy to find your way around the city and getting around by bicycle is a great option, especially during peak season when streets and buses are usually crowded. Prices generally vary from 1,000 – 2,000 yen per day depending on the bike, though some cheaper places may rent bikes for 300 or 400 yen per day.
There are several places to rent bicycles in Kyoto, including the English-friendly Kyoto Cycling Tour Project.
Kyoto has a lot of taxis and they are easy to get during the day and at night. Taxis are faster than buses and can be a good idea for groups of 3-5 traveling around the city. Buses are generally better than taxis for solo travelers and longer trips. Kyoto taxis start around 600 yen for the first two kilometers and go up by 100 yen increments for every 500 meters.
Roger is a little obsessed with travel. He has been to over 40 countries, broken 3 suitcases and owned over 10 backpacks in 12 months. What he doesn't know about travel, ain't worth knowing!