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Getting to Kyoto

By JR Haruka limited express train
  • Direct
  • 70 min
  • ¥ 1,800 - 3,400
  • 2 trains per hour
Covered by: Japan Rail Pass

The JR Haruka limited express takes about 70 minutes and costs 2900 yen by non-reserved seat or around 3400 yen by reserved seat from Kansai Airport to Kyoto. There are departures every 30 minutes. With the Icoca & Haruka ticket, available to foreign tourists only, you can do the trip by non-reserved seat for only 1800 yen if you own or purchase an Icoca prepaid card.

By JR rapid trains
  • 1 transfer
  • 100 min
  • ¥ 1,910
  • 4 connections per hour
Covered by: Japan Rail Pass

Take the JR Airport Rapid from Kansai Airport to Osaka Station and transfer to a special rapid train along the JR Kyoto Line to Kyoto. The one way trip takes about 100 minutes and costs 1910 yen.

By Nankai and Hankyu railways
  • 2 transfers
  • 120 min
  • ¥ 1,250 - 1,610
  • frequent connections

Take a Nankai express train from Kansai Airport to Tengachaya Station (40 minutes, 930 yen), and then the Sakaisuji Subway Line and Hankyu Kyoto Line to central Kyoto (about 60 minutes, 680 yen, one transfer of trains along the way, typically at Awaji, Ibarakishi or Takatsuki Station). A special ticket, the "Kyoto Access Ticket" (also known as "Kanku Access Ticket" if purchased in Kyoto), covers this route for only 1250 yen one way. This route is worth considering by people staying in central Kyoto along or around Shijo-dori Street.

By Nankai and Keihan railways
  • 2 transfers
  • 120 min
  • ¥ 1,580
  • frequent connections

Take a Nankai express train from Kansai Airport to Tengachaya Station (40 minutes, 930 yen), followed by a 10 minute ride on the Sakaisuji Subway Line to Kitahama (230 yen). From Kitahama, take the Keihan Main Line to central Kyoto (50 minutes, 420 yen). This route is worth considering by people staying in eastern Kyoto along the Keihan Line, e.g. Higashiyama or Gion.

By bus
  • Direct
  • 100 min
  • ¥ 2,600
  • 1-2 buses per hour

Direct airport buses from Kansai Airport to Kyoto Station take about 100 minutes and cost 2600 yen.

By taxi
  • Direct
  • 90-150 min
  • ¥ 4,300 - 30,000

By regular taxi the trip costs around 30,000 yen and takes about 90-150 minutes depending on the destination in Kyoto. Furthermore, several taxi companies operate so called "shuttle services" (mini buses shared by several passengers) between the airport and a desired location in Kyoto for around 4300 yen per person. Advance reservations are required for these "shuttle services".

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 (4th Avenue) and Kawaramachi-dori (Kawaramachi Street) 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 (Karasuma Street) and stops at JR Kyoto Station, and the newer Tozai Line which runs from east to west and crosses 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 are a good option for accessing the Arashiyama area (Sagano Line) and some attractions in southern Kyoto along the JR Nara Line, e.g. Fushimi Inari Shrine and Byodoin in 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, Demachi Yanagi Station in northern Kyoto. 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 counterclockwise every 30 minutes from Kyoto Station in a large circle around the city, stopping near major tourist sites along the way, including Kiyomizudera, Heian Shrine, the Imperial Palace, Kinkakuji and Nijo Castle. A 24-hour pass costs 3600 yen while a 48-hour pass costs 6100 yen.

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 people.

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 650 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 hotels and hostels may also 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 rather than tourists.

Icoca and Pitapa can be used on virtually all trains and buses in and around Kyoto (and many 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, 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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      Sponsored
    • Japanese hotel, Ryokan Nishiyama
      Experience the real Japan at our affordable ryokan. Close to major tourist spots in Kyoto.
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      Sponsored
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 minutesf 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 guestsf 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 minutesf bus ride away.
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    • IMAYA Hostel Kyoto
      Budget-friendly
      Attractively situated in the centre of Kyoto, IMAYA Hostel Kyoto features air-conditioned rooms, a bar, free WiFi and a shared lounge. The property is situated less than 1 km from Kyoto International Manga Museum, a 16-minute walk from Nijo Castle and 2.4 km from Samurai Kembu Kyoto. The accommodation provides a shared kitchen, a concierge service and luggage storage for guests. All guest rooms at the hostel are fitted with a flat-screen TV and a kitchenette. The rooms have a shared bathroom, slippers and bed linen. Kyoto Imperial Palace is 2.9 km from IMAYA Hostel Kyoto, while Heian Shrine is 3.1 km from the property. The nearest airport is Itami Airport, 48 km from the accommodation.
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    • Guesthouse Engawa
      Budget-friendly
      Guesthouse Engawa offers accommodation in Kyoto. Guests can relax and enjoy the peace and quiet of Kyoto in their rooms. Each comes with a flat-screen TV, and an electric kettle will be provided upon request. Bathroom facilities are shared with other guests. Free toiletries and hairdryers are also available. There is luggage storage space at the property. Kiyomizu-dera Temple is 600 metres from Guesthouse Engawa, while Heian Shrine is 2.4 km from the property. The nearest airport is Osaka Itami Airport, 39 km from the property.
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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 shared lounge, free WiFi and a garden. Featuring family rooms, this property also provides guests with a terrace. The accommodation offers a shared kitchen and room service for guests. All units include a shared bathroom, slippers and bed linen. A continental breakfast is available daily at the guest house. Nijo Castle is less than 1 km from Guest House Oumi, while Kyoto International Manga Museum is 2.2 km away. The nearest airport is Itami Airport, 48 km from the accommodation.
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    • Ryokan Mugen (Adult Only)
      Luxury
      Mugen is a property that was built 160 years ago, situated in Kyoto, 1 km from Nijo Castle. Every room at Mugen features an en suite shower room, toilet, free toiletries and a hairdryer. Free WiFi is available throughout the entire property. You will find a shared lounge on site and a bar at the annex building. The ryokan also offers bike hire. Imperial Palace is 1.1 km from Mugen, while Kitano Tenmangu Shrine is 1.6 km from the property. The nearest airport is Osaka Itami Airport, 39 km from the property.
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    • Ryokan Tori
      Mid-range
      Ryokan Tori is located in Kyoto, 2 km from Kitano Tenmangu Shrine. The property is around 2.3 km from Nijo Castle and Kyoto Imperial Palace. The property is 3.2 km from Kinkaku-ji Temple and 3.7 km from Kyoto International Manga Museum. All guest rooms in the ryokan are fitted with a kettle. Each room has a shared bathroom, while selected rooms are fitted with a balcony and others also offer a garden view. All rooms will provide guests with a fridge. Guests at tori can enjoy an Asian breakfast. Heian Shrine is 5 km from the accommodation. Itami Airport is 50 km from the property.
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    • GLANZ KEI Kyoto Station
      Luxury
      Situated in Kyoto, 1.5 km from TKP Garden City Kyoto and 2.7 km from the centre, GLANZ KEI Kyoto Station features air-conditioned accommodation with free WiFi, and a shared lounge. Each unit has a fully equipped kitchen with a microwave, a seating area, a flat-screen TV, a washing machine, and a private bathroom with bidet and slippers. A fridge and stovetop are also available, as well as a kettle. The aparthotel provides a laundry service, as well as business facilities like fax and photocopying. Sanjusangen-do Temple is 2.1 km from GLANZ KEI Kyoto Station, while Tofuku-ji Temple is 2.3 km from the property. The nearest airport is Itami Airport, 45 km from the accommodation.
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    • Hotel Muso
      Mid-range
      Well located in the Shimogyo Ward district of Kyoto, Hotel Muso is located 1.8 km from Sanjusangen-do Temple, 1.9 km from Samurai Kembu Kyoto and 2 km from TKP Garden City Kyoto. This 3-star hotel offers a concierge service and luggage storage space. The accommodation provides a hot tub, free WiFi throughout the property and family rooms. The rooms in the hotel are fitted with a coffee machine. Each room has a kettle and a private bathroom with a bidet and slippers, while selected rooms come with a kitchen equipped with a stovetop. Guest rooms will provide guests with air conditioning, a safety deposit box and a flat-screen TV. Kiyomizu-dera Temple is 2 km from Hotel Muso, while Kyoto International Manga Museum is 2.2 km away. The nearest airport is Itami Airport, 48 km from the accommodation.
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    • Kyoto Shijo Takakura Hotel Grandereverie
      Luxury
      Ideally situated in the Shimogyo Ward district of Kyoto, Kyoto Shijo Takakura Hotel Grandereverie is situated 1.3 km from Kyoto International Manga Museum, 1.9 km from Samurai Kembu Kyoto and 2.3 km from TKP Garden City Kyoto. Among the facilities at this property are a 24-hour front desk and a concierge service, along with free WiFi throughout the property. The hotel has family rooms. The hotel will provide guests with air-conditioned rooms with a wardrobe, a kettle, a fridge, a safety deposit box, a flat-screen TV and a private bathroom with a bidet. At Kyoto Shijo Takakura Hotel Grandereverie the rooms have bed linen and towels. An American breakfast is available each morning at the accommodation. Kyoto Shijo Takakura Hotel Grandereverie offers a terrace. Shoren-in Temple is 2.7 km from the hotel, while Nijo Castle is 2.8 km from the property. The nearest airport is Itami Airport, 48 km from Kyoto Shijo Takakura Hotel Grandereverie.
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