So you have successfully made it to Kyoto, now what? Thankfully, Kyoto is a very visitor friendly city and easy to navigate. Check out the options below.
Like everywhere in Japan, Kyoto has an excellent public transport network. It may get crowded during rush hours or in the weekend, but it is still the most convenient way to get around. Most of the events in the whatsupinkyoto calendar include the nearest busstop or subway/train stations.
In general, children under 6 years of age travel for free on Kyoto's public transport, and kids from 6 - 12 only pay half price.
Pro Tip: If you are planning to do lots of traveling in Kyoto within a day or two, you should get the Kyoto Sightseeing 1-Day or 2-Day Pass. they cost 1200 yen and 2000 yen and give you unlimited access to all buses of Kyoto City Bus and Kyoto Bus services, as well as to the Kyoto City Subway lines. These passes come with a city map and discount coupons.
The best way to get around in Kyoto is by taking a bus. The bus network is extensive, and we guess that in the central part of Kyoto, you needn't walk more than 10 minutes to the nearest bus stop.
Taking a bus in Japan is a bit peculiar: You always enter at the back and get off through the front door, where you pay at the driver. If you want to get off somewhere, just push one of the orange buttons and the driver will stop for you at the next busstop.
Kyoto's bus fare system is simple: Throughout most of Kyoto where most of the famous attractions are located, you pay a fixed fare, no matter how far you go. Currently, you pay 230 yen for one ride (children 120 yen). Just drop the exact amount into the fare box next to the driver as you get off the bus.
If you have to go further out of the city center, you may have to pay a higher fare. In those buses, you find a little machine at the back entrance where you draw a little ticket with the number of the current bus stop. In the front of the bus there will be an electronic display indicating the fares by stop number. When you get off the bus, you pay the amount shown for the number on your little ticket at this time.
Pro Tip: If you are planning 3 or more trips on a single day, get a day ticket. It only costs 500 yen for adults and is great value! You can buy it in any Kyoto bus. And you can also get a map with all Kyoto City Bus lines from the driver.
Since 2016, you can also use an IC card on Kyoto's buses - simply touch the panel next to the driver with your card when you leave.
Kyoto is a rather small town with only two subway lines that run essentially North - South (the Karasuma line) and East - West (the Tozai line). However, if you also count the local train lines, also partially running underground, you get a decent network to use for trips over longer distances.
The easiest way to use subways and trains all over japan is to buy one of the many IC cards (suica, pasmo,...) No matter which card you buy or where, thy are valid throughout Japan. Once you load the card with an amount of your choice at one of the ticket machines, you are ready to go! Riding a local train or subway is then as simple as touching the panel at the ticket gate with the IC card when entering and leaving the station. You may even change trains within a station without paying in between.
It is also possible to buy single tickets at the vending machines near the station entrance. If you know where you want to go, look up your station on the schematic map above the vending machines. Each station will have a price indicated. You must buy a ticket for the exact amount - there is no reimbursement if you pay too much!
Insert your ticket at the little slot when you enter, and don't forget to collect it afterwards. It is needed again at the destination, where it will be finally eaten by the machine.
Pro Tip: If you are going wide and far on the subway in Kyoto, you should buy a Kyoto City Subway 1-Day Pass. For 600 yen, you have unlimited access to the two Kyoto subway lines, and you can present the pass at a number of attractions (for example Nijo Castle, the Manga Museum, Toei Kyoto Studio Park...) for a discount of their entrance fees.
Subway Karasuma line (North - South): Kyoto Int. Conference Center - Imperial Palace - Kyoto Station - Takeda
Subway Tozai line (East - West): Rokujizo - Daigo Temple - Yamashina - City Hall - Nijo Castle - Uzumasa Tenjingawa Station
Keihan Railway: Demachiyanagi - Gion - Fushimi Inari - further to Osaka or Uji
Eizan Railway: Demachiyanagi - Kifune - Kurama or Yase and the Hieizan Cable Car
Hankyu Railway: Kawaramachi Shijo - Katsura Villa - further to Arashiyama or Osaka
Randen Railway: Shijo Omiya - Arashiyama or Ryoanji - Kitano Hakubaicho
Yes, strictly speaking they are not public transport. However, we include them here since they are so convenient for the tired tourist... Taxis in Japan are not cheap, but they are clean, safe, and reliable. There are taxi stands around the city, but you can also just flag one down on the streets - if the red sign in front is on, it means the taxi is free.
Renting a car while you are in Kyoto is the only mode of transport we do not recommend. There is no curbside parking anywhere, and finding a spot in one of the small, paid parking lots may be difficult. Large department stores and shopping centres do have free parking - but only for a limited time and if you shop there.
Kyoto is a great place to explore by bicycle since it is mostly flat. Especially in the inner city Kyoto is easy to navigate because of its grid street layout. We do recommend not taking the busy main streets, but rather the smaller roads that go parallel. Many a hidden gem can be found there! There are many bicycle rentals in Kyoto where you can get your own bicycle for a reasonable fee.
Be careful where you park your bicycle! Most famous sights, museums, etc. will have their own bicycle parking, and it is always okay to park your bike outside a shop or restaurant where you are customer. However, don't just leave your bicycle anywhere random - it will be removed and impounded faster than you think! To get it back, you will have to pay 2700 yen.
It is best to park in one of the paid parking lots especially for bicycles. To use one of them, simply put your bike into on the of the numbered slots. When you return, enter the number of your parking lot into the parking metre, push the yellow button, and pay the amount that is shown. Depending on the parking lot, there may be a short free interval, usually about an hour.
The best way to explore a city is on foot - and to get lost on the way! No other mode of transport lets you experience Kyoto as intimately and deeply as taking a stroll through the tiny back alleys.
Have great fun exploring the fantastic city of Kyoto!
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