How to choose the best train pass for sightseeing in Kyoto

Kiyomizu-dera temple is one of most popular temple in Kyoto Higashiyama area. (C) Sue Ann Simon / JNTO
Kiyomizu-dera temple is one of most popular temple in Kyoto Higashiyama area. (C) Sue Ann Simon / JNTO

There are several deals for sightseeing in Kyoto. I would like to show you the deals for the tourist who stays in Kyoto and want to visit the places there. I believe you will find most suitable for your trip.

By the way, if you intend to have a day trip to Kyoto from other cities, such as day trip to Kyoto from Osaka, from Kobe, Kansai thru pass and other deals are available. Please find the detailed information about the deal that covers Kyoto and other cities in the link below:

How to choose discount railway ticket and pass in Kansai (Kyoto, Osaka, Kobe, Nara) area

*The information in this article is current at the time of writing.

Kyoto City Bus & Kyoto Bus One-Day Pass

Kyoto city bus
Kyoto city bus
  • Price – Adult:500 yen / Child:250 yen
  • Coverage – Kyoto city bus and Kyoto bus in allocated area
  • Valid period – one day (midnight to midnight)

This pass is most affordable deal in Kyoto. It covers the bus lines in most part of city of Kyoto. It does not cover any train and subway lines. Please see the link below to find the bus route map. You will find the allocated area.

Kyoto city bus route map

Single fare of bus ride is 230 yen. If you make three trips by bus, it is paid off. It is quite easy and this deal is so reasonable.

However the traffic in Kyoto is heavy and Kyoto is very popular city. Bus is sometimes stuck by traffic and is behind the schedule. Especially when Kyoto hold an event or festival, bus is very crowded. If you want to visit many places in one day and have very tight schedule, I recommend you to take train as much as you can. Train is much faster and much more reliable.

Kyoto Sightseeing One and Two-day Pass Card

Kyoto station platform (C) もんじゃ (own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Kyoto station platform (C) もんじゃ (own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
  • Price of one day pass – Adult:1,200 yen / Child:600 yen
  • Price of two days pass – Adult:2,000 yen / Child:1,000 yen
  • Coverage – All Kyoto subway lines, Kyoto city bus and Kyoto bus in allocated area
  • Valid period – one day (midnight to midnight) or two consecutive days

This deal covers both bus and subway in Kyoto. The price is more than double of Kyoto city bus pass. But subway lines run from west to east and from south to north. This deal gives you more convenience than Kyoto city bus pass and gives you more smooth movement.

If you pay a single fare, it costs 210 to 340 yen to take the subway and 230 yen to take the bus. So if you take a bus or subway more than 5 times a day, this pass is worth the price. Even if you are not sure how many times you make trips in one day, I recommend you to purchase this pass. It is not such a bad deal. You will get more convenient and save your time to calculate the fare at the station.

Please see the links below to find the subway route map and all trains system map in Kyoto.

Kyoto subway route map
Guide to take trains in Kyoto. How to choose the best route by train to get the major spots?

Kyoto City Subway One-day Pass

  • Price – Adult:600 yen / Child:300 yen
  • Coverage – All Kyoto subway lines
  • Valid period – one day (midnight to midnight)

This deal covers only subway lines in Kyoto. The price is cheaper than Kyoto sightseeing card. However the coverage is very limited. You cannot visit many places in Kyoto by subway only. This pass is not very useful in my opinion.

Please see the links below to find the subway route map and all trains system map in Kyoto.

Kyoto subway route map
Guide to take trains in Kyoto. How to choose the best route by train to get the major spots?

ICOCA, Pitata and other IC cards

ICOCA is most popular IC card in Kansai area. (C) タンジェント (own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
ICOCA is most popular IC card in Kansai area. (C) タンジェント (own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

You may use these cards to take any trains and buses in Kyoto. You can use even other area’s card, such as Suica, Pasmo too. These cards give you convenience. You can avoid to purchase a ticket whenever you make a train trip. You can take any kinds of trains, such as JR, subway and Non JR trains. However these cards do not give you any discount and unlimited travel.

If you meet these following things, IC card is your choice.

1. You intend to visit a few places in a day.
2. You need to take several kinds of trains and buses, like subway, Hankyu, Keihan, JR.
3. You cannot fix your plan and want to have some flexibility.

If you visit three places in bus coverage area, you may need to take a bus at least 4 times. It costs around 800 yen that is much more than Kyoto City Bus & Kyoto Bus One-Day Pass.

Kansai One Pass

This is same type of card as ICOCA. You can use this pass by same way as ICOCA. But this card is designed for overseas tourist. Preload amount is 2,500 yen (plus 500 yen deposit and sold at 3,000 yen) and you can get discount at many attractions. ICOCA is sold at any JR stations throughout Kansai area. But Kansai One Pass is sold in the designated stations only. Please see the link below to find the detailed information at official site.

Kansai One Pass official site

For traveler who visit Osaka and other cities in same day

As I mentioned at the top of this article, there are some deals available, such as Kansai Thru Pass. But if you move other city after sightseeing in Osaka, Kansai Thru Pass and other deals may not be suitable.

e.g.
Sightseeing in Kyoto, move to Osaka and stay (no sightseeing in Osaka)

In this case, the combination of one of the deals in Osaka and single fare between Osaka and Kyoto is usually cheaper than Kansai Thru Pass or other pass. But if you do sightseeing in two cities, Kansai Thru Pass is your choice.

e.g.
Sightseeing in Kyoto, move to Osaka and sightseeing in Osaka

But sightseeing in two cities in one day is very tight and not very recommended.

For traveler who use national or regional pass

If you use JR pass (national pass) or other regional deal, such as Kansai Hiroshima Area Pass, JR train network in Kyoto is covered. You may visit some places by these passes, such as Arashiyama, Nijo and Fushimi. You may not have any other passes beside these deals if you intend to visit these places. Please see the link below to find the coverage of these national and regional deals in Osaka.

Guide to take trains in Kyoto. How to choose the best route by train to get the major spots?

I hope this post helps you to find the best deal!

27 thoughts on “How to choose the best train pass for sightseeing in Kyoto”

  1. Dear Takeshi,
    Thank you for useful information. I currently stay in Kobe and would like to visit Mount Yoshinoyama and Nara Park. I have checked Hankyu-Hanshin 1-day pass and think that it is too good for 1day unlimited rides. I would like to know if it true for riding all Hankyu-Hanshin lines for 1 day? and what is your idea for cheapest way to visit above-mentioned places?

    http://www.hanshin.co.jp/global/en/ticket/

    1. Hi Daivd,

      Hankyu Hanshin 1 day pass does not cover both Nara and Mt. Yoshino. The only deal which covers Yoshino and Nara is Kansai thru pass.
      http://jprail.com/travel-informations/other-rail-passes/rail-pass-for-residents/how-to-use-kansai-thru-pass-compare-pass-and-single-fare.html

      But this pass is available minimum 2 days. If you have one more trip to outside Kobe, you can use Kansai thru pass. But if you don’t, single ticket is your choice.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  2. Hi
    My trips is
    Day 1 kansai airport to osaka station or osaka castle
    Day 2 osaka sightseeing
    Can i use yosoko osaka for that
    Thanks

    1. Hi Min,

      Yes, but you need to add single fare for Namba to Osaka or Osaka castle. Yokoso Osaka ticket includes KIX-Namba by Nankai railway and subway one day pass. You can use these two portions separately for day 1 and 2. But if you use subway portion on day 2, you can get Namba only.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  3. Hello.

    I have been doing quite a few research but I think I need your expertise when it comes to the proper transportation I should take.

    7th April: Arrive at NARITA @11am (Tokyo/Shinjuku tour the rest of the day)
    8th April: Hakone Area for the day
    9th April: Kyoto Area for the day
    10th April: Nara in the morning, Osaka in the afternoon leaving at Osaka Airport in the evening.

    It’s a tight schedule but I’m going to make it happen. My question is: Is it reasonable to but the 7-day pass since I’m travelling such distances and probably be using most of the transportation systems more often than just buying tickets for buses and trains as I go along?

    Hope you’d reply soon.

    ThankYou!

    1. Hi John,

      In my rough calculation, total fares will be slightly cheaper than JR pass 7 days. I think total costs will be around 28,000 yen. But if you make lots of train trips in Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka, you may get the worth.

      Even if you use JR pass, you need to have other deals or ticket to get Hakone from Odawara. And also subway and city bus are not covered by JR pass in Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka. Please see the links below:
      http://jprail.com/travel-informations/other-rail-passes/rail-pass-for-visitors/japan-rail-pass-user-guide-how-to-use-jr-pass-to-its-maximum.html#How_to_use_JR_pass_in_major_cities_and_tourist_spots

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

      1. Hello again. This is John.

        First, I’d like to thank you for the fast reply. Second, I really appreciate the entirety of your website. I found the most useful links about the places I would like to go and how should I use the transportation.

        After much thought,
        Day 1: I think from Narita Airport: I will travel directly to Shinjuku (Use regular cheap fare that I can find)
        Day 2: Hakone Trip (Hakone pass from Shinjuku comes to 5500yen)
        Hakone to Kyoto (Reasonable Shinkansen that I can find)
        Day 3/4: Kyoto, Osaka, Nara, Osaka Airport (Kansai Thru Pass about 4000yen)

        Do you think that it is much better to use the passes for the specific area instead of the JR Pass?

        1. Hi John,

          Yes, you can. It’s much cheaper than JR pass.
          But if you use single fare to Odawara by Odakyu railway and use Hakone Free Pass from Odawara, the total cost is 880 yen (single fare) and 4000 yen (Hakone Free Pass) is cheaper than Hakone Free Pass from Shinjuku.

          Cheers,

          Takeshi / JPRail.com

          1. Hello again.

            Noted! Thankyou so much for all the information. I’ll do just as planned! You have been really helpful.

            Cheers!

  4. Hi,
    My Japan travel itinerary as below:
    7th Apr, 2017: Arrival at Kansai Airport/ Travel to Kyoto by Haruka Limited/ Check in at Kyoto Hotel
    8th April. 2017: Visit Sagano-Arishiyama (travel by JR local train)
    9th April, 2017: Check-out/ Day visit to Nara (by JR local trains from Kyoto-Nara-Kyoto); Kyoto to Shin-Osaka by Haruka Limited/ Check-in at Osaka Hotel.
    10th April, 2017: JR Shinkansen to Hiroshima-Miyajima Island
    11th April, 2017: Visit to Universal Studio
    12th April, 2017: Sight Seeing around Osaka (Osaka Castle-Keihan Line/ Dotonburi vis Namba Station)
    13th April, 2017: Check-out/ Shin-Osaka-Kansai Airport by Haruka Limited.

    If I buy a 5-Day JR Rail Pass for Kansai-Hiroshima Wide Area (activated on my day of arrival at Kansai Airport), can I use it to travel on Haruka Limited from Kansai Airport to Kyoto on my day of arrival?
    Or do I have to buy the IOCCA & Haruka ticket separately online apart from the Kansai-Hiroshima Wide Area 5 day Pass?

    1. Hi Mainak,

      You can take Haruka from KIX to Kyoto by Kansai Hiroshima are pass. You don’t need to purchase ICOCA and Haruka. You just need to add deal or single ticket in Osaka on 12th and Haruka discount ticket at 1300 yen to KIX on 13th.

      You can get Osaka castle by subway from Shin-Osaka. So you can use subway deal on 12th.
      http://jprail.com/travel-informations/other-rail-passes/rail-pass-for-residents/how-to-choose-the-best-train-pass-for-sightseeing-in-osaka.html

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  5. Hi Takeshi-san,

    SIN-KIX-SIN (22-29 Mar)

    This is our first time visiting to Japan. We total have 8 person.
    We plan stay at Kyoto (2night) & Osaka (5night). Can you recommend some suit itinerary for us.
    (We have budget for this trip, if we go Tokyo or Mt Fuji cost will quiet higher right?)

    Which transport should we take and what are the passes that we should purchase?

    Waiting for your reply.

    Thank you.

    Have a nice day.

  6. Dear Takeshi,

    I have planned my itinerary for my Japan Trip (OSAKA,KYOTO & TOKYO)

    DAY 1 –
    Kansai airport – shinimamiya station by yokosa osaka pass + keihan pass

    DAY 2 – OSAKA sighseeing – yokoso osaka

    DAY 3 – Osaka sight seeing + Kyoto
    Actually at first I intend to use osaka sightseeing pass
    but I saw that kansai thru pass 3 days is worth to use it.
    Please advise which is suit for me..?

    DAY 4 – Kyoto Sightseeing by using kansai thru pass/Kyoto Sightseeing One and Two-day Pass Card
    This is my kyoto sighseeing list please help me advise which pass is suit for these.-
    Kiyomizu-dera (清水寺)
    Nijo Castle (二条城)
    Nanzen-ji (南禅寺)
    Kinkaku-ji(金阁寺)
    Arashiyama (嵐山)
    Fushimi Inari-taisha (伏見稲荷大社)
    Kyoto Imperial Palace
    Ginkakuji Temple (銀閣寺)
    Tenryu-ji(天龍寺)

    DAY 5 – kyoto – Tokyo by JR trip pass
    Tokyo can I use ICOCA or I need to buy any pass?
    cus actually I want to use tokyo metro pass.
    but DAY 6 I want to go kawaguchiko i feel that not worth it.

    DAY 6 – tokyo station – KAWAGUCHIKO by bus

    DAY 7 – Tokyo – tokyo disneyland by JR

    DAY 8 – Explore tokyo sightseeing .

    Please do advise me.. thank you! 🙂

    1. Hi Louis,

      You can just purchase a ticket ticket from KIX to Shin-Imamiya by Nankai railway. It’s 920 yen.

      And then you can use Kansai thru pass 3 days from day 2 to 4. It’s easier and all trips are covered.

      You mentioned that you will use JR trip pass to Tokyo. But it’s not pass. It will be regular ticket. If you are okay to spend more time and may need transfer at Nagoya, you can use the deal in the link below. It’s a bit cheaper.
      http://jprail.com/travel-informations/other-rail-passes/rail-pass-for-residents/platt-kodama-one-way-deal-among-tokyo-nagoya-kyoto-and-shin-osaka-by-shinkansen.html

      Subway pass is most recommended in Tokyo. ICOCA or other cards is not required.
      http://jprail.com/destinations/kanto-area/tokyo-kanto-area/guide-to-take-trains-in-tokyo-how-to-choose-the-best-deal-and-the-best-route-by-train-to-get-the-major-spots.html

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

      1. Dear Takeshi,

        actually I did calculated that you suggested to purchase nankai railway -920 yen and buy the kansai thru pass 3 days 5200 yen for my osaka and kyoto trip. total is 6120 yen

        but I saw the yokoso! osaka pass has provided Nankai Electric Railway Train ticket + Limited Exp.Rapi:t reserved-seat ticket (one-way) and Osaka city subway, new tram and bus 1-day unlimited pass only cost 1,500 yen

        if i get kansai thru pass 2 days for my kyoto trip is only 4,000 yen.
        total is 5500 yen.
        which is better to me? or is that any additional charges? sorry
        I just want to clarify.

        and for the bullet train from kyoto to tokyo.
        is it the platt kodama from kyoto to tokyo? the fare is 10,100 yen travel time is 3.5 hrs
        if nozomi train from kyoto to tokyo is 13,910yen travel time is 2.5 hrs.
        I would like to choose kodama. but seems you say need to transfer at nagoya? I cannot find any cheaper train from nagoya to tokyo.. please advise!
        thank you so much

        1. Hi Louis,

          You are right. I miscalculated. You can use Yokoso Osaka for the first 2 days.
          And also even Kansai thru pass 2 days is not required. You can use Osaka visitors ticket (550 yen) on day 3 and pay single fare for Osaka to Kyoto. Total cost for day 3 will be around 1200 to 1300 yen. (depends on departure staiton and arrival station) You may add other deals in Osaka on day 3, such as Amazing pass.
          http://jprail.com/travel-informations/other-rail-passes/rail-pass-for-residents/how-to-choose-the-best-train-pass-for-sightseeing-in-osaka.html

          And you can add Kyoto sightseeing card one day at 1200 yen. I think this combination is most affortable.

          When you use Platt Kodama, you may get a direct train. It depends on the availability.
          http://www.jrtours.co.jp/kodama/en/?scid=jtt_kepEng001

          You can find which train you can take when you purchase this deal. There is no other deals available for taking Shinkansen.

          Cheers,

          Takeshi / JPRail.com

          1. Dear Takeshi,
            I think your suggestion for osaka is better !
            But may I know which pass is suitable for travel day4&5
            Cus I’m going to NARA, arashiyama and others sightseeing. Is it kansai thru 3 days pass for day 3-5 is better?

            For transport in Tokyo.
            May I know metro pass is it more worth it? But where can I purchase the pass?
            Because I intend to buy 3 days pass but I saw official website only selling in Tokyo airports..

            Please advice !

            Thank you

            Warm regards
            Louis

          2. Hi Louis,

            It depends on your trip plan on day 3, 4 and 5. You have mentioned that you have sightseeing in Osaka and travel to Kyoto on day 3. Are you going to take subway or bus after arrival in Kyoto. Are you going to explore night in Kyoto. If you take subway or bus, you will spend 300 to 400 yen at least. If you want to get the right one, you have to make sure how many times you will take train or bus.

            Regarding trip to Nara, are you going there on day 5? If so, are you going to Nara only? Or you might add a few places in Kyoto?

            If you have no idea about it, just choose Kansai thru pass 3 days for day 3 to 5. It covers all Non JR trains, subway and city buses. It gives you flexibility. But Kansai thru pass may not be the cheapest choice.

            You can purchase Tokyo Subway Pass at many places in downtown Tokyo. Please see the link below:
            http://www.tokyometro.jp/en/ticket/value/travel/index.html

            I don’t think you need 3 days. Because you will go to Lake Kawaguchi on day 6. And subway pass is valid by hours, not 2 days but 48 hours. If you start using it after trip to Lake Kawaguchi sometimes in evening, it will be valid until evening on day 8. 48 hours may be okay.

            Cheers,

            Takeshi / JPRail.com

          3. Dear Takeshi,

            For Day 3 I will be exploring around kyoto in night.
            Yes for day 4 I will going nara half day and other sighseeing..

            Thank you!

  7. Hi Takeshi,
    I plan to buy takayama hokuriku area tourist pass. So when I visit kyoto what pass is most affordable? I’m coming to Kyoto from Osaka, will stay one night in Kyoto and left the next day to go Kanazawa. Can I use the hokuriku pass in Kyoto?

    1. Hi Belle,

      You can take JR trains from Osaka to Kyoto by Takayama Hokuriku Area Pass. But after you arrive in Kyoto, you have to add single fare or day pass for sightseeing in Kyoto because Takayama Hokuriku Area Pass does not cover any local transportation in Kyoto. Please see the link below to find the info about deals in Kyoto.
      http://jprail.com/travel-informations/other-rail-passes/rail-pass-for-residents/how-to-choose-the-best-train-pass-for-sightseeing-in-kyoto.html

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

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