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Getting to Kyoto

By shinkansen
  • Direct
  • 2.5 h
  • ¥ around 14,000
  • multiple trains per hour
Covered by: Japan Rail Pass

Tokyo and Kyoto are connected with each other by the JR Tokaido Shinkansen. Nozomi trains require about 140 minutes to reach Kyoto from Tokyo, Hikari trains about 160 minutes and Kodama trains about four hours.

The regular one way fare from Tokyo to Kyoto is 13,320 yen for a non-reserved seat or around 14,000 yen for a reserved seat. A 7-day Japan Rail Pass costs about the same as regular round trip tickets. The Japan Rail Pass is valid on Hikari and Kodama trains, but not on Nozomi trains.

Only available to foreign passport holders, the "Shinkansen Round Trip Package" (sale is currently suspended) provides a round trip within seven calendar days by non-reserved seat on any train between Tokyo and Kyoto for only 21,500 yen. The ticket can be purchased at JR Tokai Tours travel agencies.

With the "Puratto Kodama Economy Plan", you can travel between Tokyo and Kyoto by reserved seat on a Kodama train for only 10,600 yen, but the plan has to be purchased at least one day in advance from JR Tokai Tours travel agencies.

The Tokyo-Osaka Hokuriku Arch Pass is a rail pass that allows holders to travel between Tokyo and Kyoto via Kanazawa, using the Hokuriku Shinkansen. It is not the fastest way to travel between Tokyo and Kyoto, but it allows pass holders to visit the less-explored Hokuriku Region along the way. At 24,500 yen for seven days, the pass is cheaper than a 7-day Japan Rail Pass.

By highway bus
  • Direct
  • 7-8 h
  • ¥ 3,500 - 10,000
  • multiple daytime and overnight connections per day

The one way trip from Tokyo to Kyoto by highway bus takes about 7-8 hours. There are daytime and overnight buses. Fierce competition on the Tokyo-Kyoto-Osaka route has produced a wide variety of comfort levels (from discount to super premium buses) and an abundance of low priced offers.

Typical one way fares for discount buses, such as Willer Express, start from around 3500 yen; while premium buses charge up to 10,000 yen. If used effectively, the Japan Bus Pass can reduce the cost for the bus trip to around 3000 yen. Online reservations can be made through Willer and Japan Bus Online.

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By air
  • 2-3 transfers
  • 3-4 h
  • ¥ 9,000 - 23,000
  • multiple flights per day

The closest airport to Kyoto is Osaka's Itami Airport, about one hour by bus from central Kyoto (more details). Most flights connect Itami Airport with Tokyo's Haneda Airport, with just a few serving Tokyo's Narita Airport. Flight duration is one hour. The regular one way fare is around 28,000 yen, but discount tickets are usually available for around 9,000 to 14,000 yen.

By car
  • 5-6 h
  • ¥ around 10,000 (expressway tolls)

Driving between Tokyo and Kyoto via the Tomei and Meishin Expressways takes about five to six hours without breaks and traffic jams. The expressway toll is around 10,000 yen one way.

By local trains
  • 4 transfers
  • 9 h
  • ¥ 2,410 - 8,210

By local trains, the one way trip from Tokyo to Kyoto takes about nine hours and typically involves about four transfers of trains. The regular fare is a relatively expensive 8360 yen, however, with a Seishun 18 Kippu you could theoretically do the trip for as little as 2410 yen.

Above fees and schedules are subject to change. Be sure to check current yen exchange rates.

Getting around

Kyoto features a rectangular street system. Unlike the streets in other Japanese cities, most of central Kyoto's streets are named. The main streets running from east to west are numbered in ascending order from north to south, and are about 500 meters apart from each other, with several smaller streets in between. For example, Shijo means "4th Avenue" and Nijo means "2nd Avenue".

Kyoto's city center with the highest concentration of dining, shopping and entertainment opportunities, is located around the junction of Shijo-dori (4th Avenue) and Kawaramachi-dori (Kawaramachi Street). JR Kyoto Station is located south of the city center at the height of Hachijo-dori (8th Avenue).

The most prominent north-south street is Karasuma-dori (Karasuma Street), which runs from Kyoto Station via the city center to Kyoto Imperial Palace. Another north-south axis is Kamo River, about one kilometer east of Karasuma-dori.

Kyoto has a rather inadequately developed public transportation system for a city of its size, consisting of two subway lines, a dense bus network and several railway companies, whose lines are not always conveniently connected with each other. Taxis and bicycles can be worthwhile alternatives.

The recommended way to get around Kyoto by public transportation is to use an IC card, such as Icoca, which is accepted on virtually all trains and buses in the city. Alternatively, travelers intending to use buses or subways extensively, should consider one of the 1-day passes available. See the ticket section below for more details.

Below is a simplified map of the railway and subway lines of Kyoto:

Bus

Few of Kyoto's tourist attractions are located close to subway or train stations. Instead, Kyoto has a dense bus network with direct bus lines from Kyoto Station and/or the city center around Shijo-dori and Kawaramachi-dori to most major sights.

Kyoto is served by multiple bus companies. For central Kyoto, the green Kyoto City Bus buses are most numerous and useful. The red buses by Kyoto Bus are second most prominent and tend to be convenient to access sights in more outlying areas of the city.

The tourist offices provide a useful English network map for the Kyoto City Buses, which makes it quite easy for foreign visitors to access tourist attractions by bus. Despite the good map and English displays and announcements, however, getting off at the correct bus stop can still be stressful, especially in crowded buses.

Since buses are small and operate surprisingly infrequently even on some major routes, buses to major tourist sights can often get crowded, especially on weekends and during holidays. In addition, much time can be lost when buses get stuck or only proceed slowly in the busy street traffic. Consequently, it is recommended to use subways and trains as much as possible, and use buses only for medium and short distances, for example, from the closest subway station to the destination.

Most buses are entered through the back door and left through the front door. The fare has to be paid when leaving the bus. Inside much of central Kyoto, there is a flat rate of 230 yen per ride. Outside the flat fare zone, the fare increases with the distance. Click here for more information on riding buses.

Subway

There are two subway lines in Kyoto, the Karasuma Line which runs from south to north along Karasuma-dori and stops at JR Kyoto Station, and the newer Tozai Line which runs from east to west and meets the Karasuma Line at the intersection of Karasuma-dori and Oike-dori.

Japan Railways

All JR lines, including the Tokaido Shinkansen, pass through or commence at JR Kyoto Station. JR trains can be a convenient for accessing the Arashiyama area (JR Sagano Line) and some attractions in southern Kyoto along the JR Nara Line, e.g. Fushimi Inari Shrine and Uji.

Other Railways

  • Hankyu Railway connects Kyoto with Osaka. The line initially runs below Shijo Avenue from Kawaramachi westwards in direction of Osaka. It is a good option for accessing the area around Katsura Rikyu, from where a branch line also connects to Arashiyama.
  • Keifuku Railway (also known as Randen) operates two tram-like train lines in northwestern Kyoto. For train lovers, a ride on these trains is a small attraction by itself. The lines can be an option for accessing Arashiyama and the area around Ryoanji and Kinkakuji.
  • Keihan Railway's main line runs next and parallel to Kamo River, but unfortunately does not connect to Kyoto Station. The line continues to Osaka and is an alternative to the JR Nara Line to access some of the attractions in southern Kyoto.
  • Eizan Railway operates two train lines from where the Keihan Line ends, Demachiyanagi Station. One line leads to Kurama, while the other runs to the base of Hieizan.
  • Kintetsu Railway connects Kyoto Station to Nara. Note that some trains on the Karasuma Subway Line continue to run on the Kintetsu Nara Line and the other way around.

By sightseeing bus

The Sky Hop Bus is an expensive but convenient way to visit Kyoto's most famous sightseeing spots. Double-decker buses with an open-air second floor run clockwise every hour from Kyoto Station in a large circle around the city, stopping near major tourist sites along the way, including Nijo Castle, Kinkakuji, the Imperial Palace, Heian Shrine and Kiyomizudera. A 12-hour pass costs 2500 yen and a 24-hour pass costs 3600 yen and can be purchased through Klook.

Taxis

Kyoto is probably the Japanese city with the highest concentration of taxis. Especially in the city center, taxis are found everywhere. Taxis can not only be a more comfortable, but also an economical alternative to buses on short to medium distances for groups of three or more.

Most taxis accommodate up to four passengers (not including the driver), while larger vehicles are able to accommodate an additional fifth passenger. The rate starts around 610 yen for the first two kilometers and increases by 80 yen for every additional 300-400 meters traveled.

Bicycles

Kyoto City's simple layout and flat terrain make it easy and convenient to explore by bicycle. Numerous bicycle rental outlets can be found around the city, especially around major stations, such as Kyoto Station or in popular biking areas like Arashiyama. Typical rental prices are around 1000-1500 yen per day for basic bicycles and around 1700-2000 yen for electric assist bicycles. Some lodgings may provide their guests with bicycles for a small fee or for free.

Kyoto is generally a bicycle-friendly city with relatively easily navigable roads and a handful of cycling routes, most notably along Kamo River. Designated bicycle parking is often freely available around popular sightseeing spots. The situation is a little bit more challenging in the city center due to congested roads, crowded sidewalks and a lack of designated parking areas. Also, distances to some of the more outlying sightseeing spots should not be underestimated. For example, it is about eight kilometers (typically a 45-75 minute ride) from Kyoto Station to Kinkakuji or about ten kilometers to Arashiyama.

Passes and Tickets

See also our separate page about the various passes available for the Kansai Region.

The prepaid IC card available in Kyoto is called Icoca. It does not give you any discounts over regular tickets, but it makes the process of taking trains and buses easier, as you do not always need to buy a ticket for each ride. Icoca cards can be purchased through ticket machines at JR stations. Local non-JR railway companies offer their own IC card called Pitapa; however, Pitapa is a postpaid card that works more like a credit card and is targeted at residents.

Icoca and Pitapa can be used on virtually all trains and buses in and around Kyoto (and most other major cities in Japan). Additionally, eight other IC cards from other major cities of Japan can also be used on the trains and buses of Greater Osaka and Kyoto, including Suica, Pasmo, Kitaca, Toica, Manaca, Sugoca, Nimoca and Hayakaken.

The Kansai One Pass is a special version of Icoca exclusively for foreign tourists that additionally qualifies for discounts at various attractions in the Kansai Region. It is available for sale at Kansai Airport and major railway stations in the Kansai Region.

Furthermore, the following one day passes are available for Kyoto:

  • Kyoto Sightseeing Card (1100 yen)
    Unlimited use of Kyoto's two subway lines and most buses (including Kyoto City Buses, Kyoto Buses, JR buses and Keihan buses) in central Kyoto and outskirts, including Ohara and Daigoji on one calendar day. The pass also comes with discount coupons for selected sights in Kyoto. It can be purchased from ticket machines in subway stations, at bus ticket centers and from some hotels. The pass can pay off especially if you visit outlying areas such as Ohara. The downside is that, besides the subway lines, the pass does not cover any other trains which are often a convenient means of getting around.
  • Kyoto One Day Bus Card (700 yen)
    Unlimited use of Kyoto City Buses, Kyoto Buses and JR buses in central Kyoto on one calendar day. Unlike the Kyoto Sightseeing Card (see above), the one-day bus card does not cover outlying areas such as Ohara and the Katsura Imperial Villa, but it does cover Arashiyama and Takao. The card can be purchased at bus and subway ticket counters and from bus drivers; however, there is a risk that bus drivers run out of cards in which case purchase is not possible. The one-day bus card pays off if you use buses four times per day or more. However, be warned that buses are a relatively slow means of getting around Kyoto and are often delayed by traffic.
  • Kyoto Subway One Day Card (800 yen)
    Unlimited use of Kyoto's two subway lines on one calendar day. The card can be purchased from ticket machines at subway stations. It generally pays off if you use subways more than three times per day, however its value is restricted by the subway's limited coverage area.

Hotels around Kyoto

    • Arashiyama Hanaikada
      A little, superior ryokan right near Togetsukyo Bridge in Arashiyama. Free transfer from JR station. Private bath and open-air baths available. 5min walk to the Bamboo Groves.
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    • Ryokufuso
      A friendly Japanese hotel near Nishi Honganji temple. 5min by taxi from JR Kyoto Sta. Enjoy your stay with the Japanese room and communal baths. Free Wi-Fi & parking lot.
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    • Japanese hotel, Ryokan Nishiyama
      Experience the real Japan at our affordable ryokan. Close to major tourist spots in Kyoto.
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    • Ryokan Hirashin
      A traditional hotel with spacious rooms and high speed Wi-Fi. Conveniently located in the heart of Kyoto city. 3min to Shijo Karasuma Sta. and 5min to the famous Nishiki Market.
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Top rated in Kyoto
Budget:
    • Guesthouse KYOTO COMPASS
      Budget-friendly
      Located in Kyoto, this traditional Japanese guest house features free Wi-Fi and a free public computer. Shichijo Onmae bus stop is 3 minutesf walk away. A seating area and shared bathroom are provided with each room at Guesthouse KYOTO COMPASS. Free toiletries are provided and blankets are available upon request. Select rooms have a garden view. A shared living area and bicycles are available for guestsf use during their stay at this Kyoto Guesthouse Compass. Access to the shared kitchen is available upon request. The guest house is 4.5 km from Imperial Palace and 2.2 km from Kyoto Station. Nijo Castle and Toji Castle are within a 30 minutesf bus ride away.
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    • Gallery Nozawa Inn
      Budget-friendly
      Gallery Nozawa Inn offers accommodation in Kyoto, 25 minutes on foot from JR Kyoto Station. Free WiFi is available throughout the property. Every room includes a flat-screen TV and air conditioning. Each room is equipped with a private toilet, and bathrooms are shared. For your comfort, you will find free toiletries and a hairdryer. There is luggage storage space at the property. Guests can sample Japanese-style breakfast featuring seasonal ingredients. There is a public bathhouse located a 10-minute walk away. Nijo Castle is 2.4 km from Gallery Nozawa Inn, while Kyoto International Manga Museum is 2.4 km from the property. Osaka Itami Airport is 36 km away.
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    • Guest House Oumi
      Budget-friendly
      Well set in the centre of Kyoto, Guest House Oumi provides air-conditioned rooms, a garden, free WiFi and a shared lounge. This 2-star guest house offers a shared kitchen and room service. The property is non-smoking and is located 1.2 km from Nijo Castle. All units include a shared bathroom, free toiletries and bed linen. A continental breakfast is available daily at the guest house. Guest House Oumi offers a terrace. Kyoto International Manga Museum is 2.2 km from the accommodation, while Kyoto Shigaku Kaikan Conference Hall is 2.9 km away. The nearest airport is Itami Airport, 46 km from Guest House Oumi.
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    • Hotel Muso
      Mid-range
      Located in the centre of Kyoto, less than 1 km from Gion Shijo Station, Hotel Muso provides air-conditioned rooms and free WiFi. This 3-star hotel offers a concierge service and luggage storage space. The property is non-smoking and is situated less than 1 km from Kyoto Shigaku Kaikan Conference Hall. Guest rooms at the hotel are equipped with a flat-screen TV and a safety deposit box. Each room has a coffee machine and a private bathroom with a bidet and free toiletries, while selected rooms come with a kitchen equipped with a stovetop. At Hotel Muso rooms come with bed linen and towels. The accommodation offers 3-star accommodation with a hot tub. Popular points of interest near Hotel Muso include Sanjusangen-do Temple, Samurai Kembu Kyoto and Kiyomizu-dera Temple. The nearest airport is Itami Airport, 45 km from the hotel.
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    • GLANZ KEI Kyoto Station
      Luxury
      Featuring 4-star accommodation, GLANZ KEI Kyoto Station is situated in Kyoto, 1.1 km from TKP Garden City Kyoto and 2.1 km from Sanjusangen-do Temple. With a shared lounge, the 4-star hotel has air-conditioned rooms with free WiFi, each with a private bathroom. The property is 2.7 km from the city centre and 1.1 km from Kyoto Station. All rooms are fitted with a fridge, microwave, a kettle, a bidet, free toiletries and a desk. At the hotel the rooms include bed linen and towels. GLANZ KEI Kyoto Station provides a laundry service, as well as business facilities like fax and photocopying. Languages spoken at the 24-hour front desk include English, Japanese, Korean and Filipino. Tofuku-ji Temple is 3 km from the accommodation, while Kyoto Shigaku Kaikan Conference Hall is 3.2 km from the property. The nearest airport is Itami Airport, 42 km from GLANZ KEI Kyoto Station.
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    • Kyono Mori Yurinsha
      Mid-range
      Featuring 3-star accommodation, Kyono Mori Yurinsha is set in Kyoto, 1.7 km from Sanjusangen-do Temple and 1 km from Kyoto Shigaku Kaikan Conference Hall. Among the facilities of this property are a restaurant, room service and luggage storage space, along with free WiFi. The property is 1.1 km from Gion Shijo Station, and within 1.7 km of the city centre. All guest rooms come with air conditioning, a flat-screen TV with cable channels, a fridge, a kettle, a shower, free toiletries and a desk. Featuring a private bathroom with a bath and a hairdryer, rooms at the inn also have a city view. At Kyono Mori Yurinsha all rooms have bed linen and towels. A ? la carte, continental or vegetarian breakfast can be enjoyed at the property. The accommodation provides an ironing service, as well as business facilities like fax and photocopying. Popular points of interest near Kyono Mori Yurinsha include Kiyomizu-dera Temple, TKP Garden City Kyoto and Samurai Kembu Kyoto. The nearest airport is Itami Airport, 45 km from the inn.
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    • BenTen Residences
      Luxury
      BenTen Residences offer a Japanese machiya accommodation in the heart of Higashiyama, Kyoto. Yasaka Shrine is 7 minutes on foot, while Kiyomizu Temple is a 14-minute stroll. BenTen Residences was featured as 1 of the Top 10 vacation homes in 2017 by Dwell. Free WiFi access is provided throughout the entire property. Coming with heated flooring, the accommodation features a Western bedroom and two Japanese-style rooms with tatami (woven-straw) flooring and futon bedding. There are also a living area and kitchenette. Guests will also find a bath with a view of little garden and 2 toilets. For an additional fee, the concierge service is available to create bespoke itineraries and assist guests with arranging cultural experiences, restaurant reservations and airport shuttle. Car and bicycle rental can also be arranged. Gion District is a 7-minute walk from BenTen Residences, while Heian Shrine is an 8-minute drive away. JR Kyoto Station is 20 minutes by car. The nearest airport is Osaka Itami Airport, 38.6 km from BenTen Residences and Kansai International Airport is 80 km.
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    • Nagi Kyoto Shijo
      Luxury
      Offering air-conditioned rooms in the Nakagyo Ward district of Kyoto, Nagi Kyoto Shijo is 1.4 km from Kyoto International Manga Museum. Among the facilities at this property are a 24-hour front desk and room service, along with free WiFi throughout the property. The rooms include a balcony. At the hotel, the rooms have a wardrobe. At Nagi Kyoto Shijo all rooms have a desk, a flat-screen TV and a private bathroom. Nijo Castle is 1.8 km from Nagi Kyoto Shijo, while TKP Garden City Kyoto is 2.6 km from the property. The nearest airport is Itami Airport, 47 km from the hotel.
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    • Ryokan Shimizu
      Budget-friendly
      About a 7-minute walk from JR Kyoto Train Station and a 3-minute walk to Nishi-Hongan-ji Temple, Ryokan Shimizu is a non-smoking property that provides air-conditioned Japanese rooms with free Wi-Fi and a private bathroom. Rental bicycles are available at an additional charge. Guests at Shimizu Ryokan can experience traditional Japanese-style sleeping arrangements, with futon bedding on a tatami (woven-straw) floor. Rooms include a TV, a fridge and a tea maker. The en suite bath has toiletries. Higashi-Hongan-ji Temple is a 5-minute walk away, while Gojo Subway Station is a 10-minute walk. Sanjusangen-do Temple is 2 km away. On-site parking is possible, for a fee. Housed in a traditional gmachiya-zukurih building, the hotel includes a small garden and a hot bath that can be reserved for private use.
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    • Hostel Sui Kyoto
      Budget-friendly
      In a prime location in Kyoto, Hostel Sui Kyoto provides air-conditioned rooms, a shared lounge, free WiFi and a terrace. The property is located 1.2 km from Kitano Tenmangu Shrine, 1.8 km from Kinkaku-ji Temple and 2.4 km from Kyoto Imperial Palace. Private parking is available on site. The capsule hotel features certain units that include a safety deposit box, and every room is fitted with a shared bathroom with a bidet and a hairdryer. At Hostel Sui Kyoto the rooms are fitted with bed linen and towels. Nijo Castle is 2.7 km from the accommodation, while Kyoto International Manga Museum is 3.9 km away. The nearest airport is Itami Airport, 48 km from Hostel Sui Kyoto.
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