How to choose the best train and bus pass for sightseeing in Kyoto

Toji temple is just 10 minutes away from Kyoto station. © Q.Sawami/© 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

Kyoto City Bus & Kyoto Bus One-Day Pass

Kyoto city bus
Kyoto city bus
  • Price – Adult:600 yen / Child:300 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 Kyoto city. It does not cover any trains 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

The 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. The bus is stuck by traffic and is behind the schedule very often. Especially when Kyoto hold an event or festival, the bus is very crowded. If you want to visit many places in one day and have very tight schedule, I recommend you to take a train and/or a subway as much as you can. The train is much faster and much more reliable.

Subway, Bus One-day and Two-day Pass

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:900 yen / Child:450 yen
  • Price of two days pass – Adult:1,700 yen / Child:850 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 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 4 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

You also can find the train network in Kyoto in the link below:

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 Subway, Bus one day pass but the price difference is only 200 yen. And the coverage of subway pass is very limited. You cannot visit many places in Kyoto by subway only. This pass is not very useful in my opinion.

ICOCA, Kansai One Pass 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.

Please see the link below to find more information about IC card in the link below:

Kansai One Pass

This is same type of IC card as ICOCA. You can use this pass by same way as ICOCA. But this card is designed for overseas tourist. The preload amount is 2,500 yen (plus 500 yen deposit and sold at 3,000 yen) and you can get a 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 Kyoto.

I hope this post helps you to find the best deal in Kyoto.

188 thoughts on “How to choose the best train and bus pass for sightseeing in Kyoto”

  1. Hi there! Would appreciate if you can give me some advice! I would be purchasing the JR pass as I would be taking the Shinkansen from Tokyo to Kyoto. My boyfriend and I are traveling from 4-11 April 2020.

    I intend to spend time visiting famous Kyoto tourist attractions, Kinkakuji temple, Arashiyama and also visit Nara and Himeji. Do you need there is a need for me to purchase an additional Kyoto Subway + Bus pass? Or the Kansai One pass? Or any other passes to supplement the JR pass?

    Would greatly appreciate your input! Thank you!

    1. Hi Yue Shan,

      You may add all day bus pass because you can visit many places in western part of Kyoto by JR Pass. Please see the link below:
      https://jprail.com/travel-informations/tips-for-japan-rail-pass/how-to-use-japan-rail-pass-in-kyoto.html

      You can use JR pass to visit Nara and Himeji by JR Pass.
      https://jprail.com/travel-informations/tips-for-japan-rail-pass/how-to-transfer-among-kyoto-osaka-and-kobe-compare-japan-railway-and-private-lines.html

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  2. Hi,
    Can you please help me with the suitable pass for this trip in osaka / kyoto.

    Day1 :
    Arrive at Itami (ITM) airport from tokyo and then head to Kyoto directly. Stay at Kyoto.

    Day2 and Day3 :
    Sightseeing in kyoto

    Day 4:
    Travel from Kyoto to Osaka and Osaka Sightseeing

    Day5 :
    Osaka sightseeing in the morning and then later travel to Itami airport for further flight.

    Thanks in advance !!

    1. Hi Nagesha G,

      Airport Limousine Bus is the choice for Itami to/from Kyoto and Osaka.
      https://jprail.com/sample-itineraries/airport-access/osaka-itami-itm/itami-osaka-airport-access-guide.html
      https://www.osaka-airport.co.jp/en/access/bus/

      Kyoto Bus and Subway 2-day pass is the best choice for day 2 and 3. Please see the post above.

      There is no deals to cover Kyoto to Osaka trip. Just pay as you go.

      In Osaka, there are several deals available. Please see the link below to find the best one for you:
      https://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

  3. Hi Takeshi-san,

    Really appreciate you in helping foreigners planning the best way during our trip in Japan.
    Can you recommend me the most suitable passes for my trip, as follows

    Day 1 : Kyoto
    – Nishiki Market
    – Gion
    – Fushimi Inari
    – Pontocho Alley
    Stay at Kyoto

    Day 2 : Kyoto-Osaka
    – Arashiyama Bamboo Forest
    – Monkey Iwayatama Park
    – Train to Osaka
    – Dotonbori
    Stay in Osaka

    Day 3 : Osaka
    – Osaka Castle
    – Shitennoji Temple
    – Kuromon Ichiba Market
    – Shinsaibashisuji
    Stay in Osaka

    Day 4 : Osaka – Himeji – Kobe
    – Train to Himeji & Visit Himeji Castle
    – Train to Kobe & Dinner
    – Train to Osaka
    Stay in Osaka

    Day 5 : Osaka – Nara
    – Train to Nara
    – Nara Park, Naramachi, Nearest Temples
    – Train to Osaka
    Stay in Osaka

    Day 6 : Osaka
    – Full Day in Universal Osaka
    Stay in Osaka

    Day 7 :
    – Explore Dotonbori and Shopping
    – At evening, train to KIX

    We are going by 5 people (Family), so we are considering buying Kansai Thru Pass and ICOCA. Still not sure if we need to have other passes (Osaka Amazing Pass, etc.)

    Thank you very much 🙂

      1. Hi Takeshi-san,

        Yes, I will arrive in Kansai and immediately go to Kyoto.
        For Day 3 and 5 actually I am quite flexible, so it’s possible to be switched.

        Thanks,

        Kevin

        1. Hi Kevin san,

          You can use Kansai area pass 4-day for the first 4 days of your trip. You can take the limited express Haruka from KIX to Kyoto by this pass:
          https://jprail.com/travel-informations/other-rail-passes/rail-pass-for-visitors/how-to-use-jr-west-kansai-area-pass-compare-pass-and-single-fare.html

          You can use Keihan and subway ticket which is included in Kansai area pass for day 1. Arashiyama can be accessed by JR on day 2. So you should use this additional ticket on day 1.
          https://jprail.com/destinations/kansai-area/guide-to-take-trains-in-kyoto-how-to-choose-the-best-route-by-train-to-get-the-major-spots.html

          As I asked, switch day 3 and 5. And you can cover Himeji, Kobe and Nara by this pass.

          I think Kansai one pass is okay in Osaka. Kansai one pass is basically same as ICOCA but you can get the discount at many attracitons by Kansai one pass:
          https://kansaionepass.com/en/about.html?info=1

          You may add a deal for Osaka to Kansai as you need:
          https://jprail.com/travel-informations/tips-for-japan-rail-pass/how-to-access-from-kansai-airport-to-downtown-osaka-kyoto-and-kobe.html

          Cheers,

          Takeshi / JPRail.com

  4. Hi,

    I have purchased my 7 day JR pass.

    Day 1 – Tokyo to Gala Yuzawa
    Day 2 – Tokyo to Osaka (osaka site seeing)
    Day 3 – Universal studio
    Day 4 – Osaka site seeing
    Day 5 – Osaka to Kyoto (kyoto site seeing)
    Day 6 – Kyoto (site seeing)
    Day 7 – Kyoto to Tokyo

    Im aware that I can only use the 7 day JR pass for Gala Yuzawa, Osaka and Kyoto.

    Would like to know what will be the ideal pass for me to get to explore Osaka and Kyoto to see all the main attractions.

    Thanks
    Lalitha

    1. Hi Lalitha,

      JR pass covers many places in Kyoto and Osaka. Please see the links below:
      https://jprail.com/travel-informations/tips-for-japan-rail-pass/guide-to-take-trains-in-osaka-how-to-choose-the-best-route-by-train-to-get-the-major-spots.html
      https://jprail.com/travel-informations/tips-for-japan-rail-pass/guide-to-take-trains-in-kyoto-how-to-choose-the-best-route-by-train-to-get-the-major-spots.html

      You may add city bus pass in Kyoto to visit eastern part of Kyoto, such as Gion, Kiyomizudera. In Osaka, you may add the deal in the link below if you want to visit the place where JR pass does not cover.
      https://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

      1. Hi Takeshi-san,

        Thank you very much for your advice and recommendation.
        Really appreciate your kind help !

        Cheers,

        Kevin

  5. Hi Takeshi ,
    Would be much appreciated if you could advise if my plan as below is suitable and I’m open to any suggestion on the train pass .

    Day 1 Osaka ( Hotel @ Nipponbashi Area )
    traveling to Nara Park – Todaiji temple – Kofukuji Temple – back to OSAKA and visit Harukas 300 – Dotonbori – Back to hotel
    I’m planning to use Kintetsu 1 Day Pass + ICOCA

    Day 2 : Osaka Area
    OSAKA castle- Umeda Observatory – Kayukian Aquarium – Santa Maria Cruise -Tempozan Ferris Wheel
    – using Osaka Amazing Pass

    Day 3 : USJ whole day and will be using ICOCA for this

    Day 4 :
    Nippombashi – Himeiji Castle – Kobe Port – Mt Rokko ( Snow Park ) – back to OSAKA
    planning to use 1-Day JR Kansai Area Pass and Rokkosan Pass

    Day 5 : Travel to Kyoto and will be staying at Kyoto ( Shijo Area)
    OSAKA- Kyoto – Arashiyama Bamboo Forest – Yakasa Shrine – Gion – Kodaiji Temple – Kiyomizudera- temple – Nishiki market – back hotel
    Planning to use Hankyu 1 Day Pass + ICOCA or Purchase 2 day Kyoto Subway and bus pass

    Day 6 : Sightseeing Kyoto ( using Kyoto Subway and bus pass )
    Fushimi Inari – Kinkakuji Temple – Nijo Castle – Kyoto Imperial Palace( not sure if still doable for this )
    Day 7 : Kyoto Imperial Palace – KIX Airport using Haruka train – Rinku Outlet while waiting for flight departure ( flight to depart at night )

    Thanks in advance.

    1. Hi Stacy,

      I recommend you to use Kansai Thru Pass 3-day for day 1, 4 and 5:
      https://jprail.com/travel-informations/other-rail-passes/rail-pass-for-residents/how-to-use-kansai-thru-pass-compare-pass-and-single-fare.html

      You still need Rokkosan pass on top of this. But the rest of your trip in day 1, 4 and 5 are covered by Kansai thru pass full because this pass covers subway, city bus, Kintetsu, Nankai, Hanshin, Sanyo, Hankyi railways. You don’t need to use even ICOCA.

      But you may need ICOCA for USJ and Kyoto on day 6. And you must have ICOCA to get Haruka discount ticket on day 7. You may use Kansai one pass instead of ICOCA.
      https://jprail.com/travel-informations/other-rail-passes/rail-pass-for-visitors/icoca-and-haruka-ticket-very-flexible-and-good-deal-for-tourist-who-stay-in-kansai.html

      I don’t think you need subway and bus pass on yda 6. Kansai One Pass is okay to cover these areas on day 6.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  6. Hi Takeshi-san,
    Please give me advise about which pass to choose on my (kinda ambitious) Kansai itenerary as follow:

    Day 1:
    Arrive at Osaka
    Go to Kobe
    Sightseeing Osaka
    Stay in Kyoto

    Day 2:
    Sightseeing Kyoto arround gojo-gion
    To Ginkakuji Temple
    Stay in Gojo

    Day 3:
    To Nagoya Castle
    To Nara Deer Park
    Stay in Gojo

    Day 4:
    To Kinkakuji Temple
    Sightseeing arashiyama
    Stay in Arashiyama

    Day 5:
    To Hachiman bori
    To Hikone
    To Chikubu Island
    Stay in (maybe) Higashiyama area

    Day 6:
    To Kifune shrine
    To Nijo Castle
    To Kyoto Imperial Palace
    To Fushimi Inari
    Stay in (maybe) Higashiyama area

    Day 7:
    Planning to see Toei Studio
    And repeat what I like the most about Kyoto

    I think I need 3 days kyoto pass, and kansai pass… also thinking do I need Kintetsu rail pass to cover the nagoya-nara trip?

    Thanks for the enlightment 🙂

    1. Hi Ratri san,

      I recommend you to visit Hikone, Hachiman bori and Chikubu island on day 2. You can use Kansai area pass 2-day for day 1 and 2.
      https://jprail.com/travel-informations/other-rail-passes/rail-pass-for-visitors/how-to-use-jr-west-kansai-area-pass-compare-pass-and-single-fare.html

      Otherwise you have to buy 2 x 1 day Kansai area pass.

      You need Kintetsu rail pass for Nagoya ana Nara as you think.

      In Kyoto, you can use one day bus pass. But when you take a train or a subway, just use a regular fare ticket.
      https://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

      1. Hi Takeshi-san,

        Thank you for your kind reply and advise… ☺

        I am curious with one more thing,
        After the 7th day, I am planning to visit Hokkaido and Tokyo (using my JR Pass)
        For local transport, can I buy IC card in Kyoto/Osaka which is ICOCA?
        and Whether I can use ICOCA in both Hokkaido and Tokyo?

        Thank you in advance for your reply and help

  7. Hi Takeshi-San, can you kindly recommend on the most suitable passes for my trip as follows:

    Day 1: Kyoto
    – Arashiyama
    – Fushimi Inari

    Day 2 : Kyoto
    – Kiyomizu-dera
    – Kinkakuji

    Day 3 : Nara
    – Nara Deer Park

    Day 4 : Osaka
    – Universal Studios

    Day 5 : Osaka
    – Umeda Observatory
    – Tempozan Ferris Wheel
    – Osaka Castle

    Day 6 : Osaka
    – Dotonbori

    My plan is to use Osaka Amazing Pass & Kansai Thru Pass.

    Thank you very much.

Please read these terms and conditions before you leave a comment.
  • Your comment will not be displayed until I approve it. When you will leave a comment, the page will just reload and nothing will happen. But if I approve the comment, your comment will be displayed. Press submit only once and wait for the comment to appear.
  • Please refrain from asking me to create a itinerary. I'm not your personal travel agent, so I do not accept making itineraries from scratch. This site provides you with a lot of information. Please refer to them and make your own itinerary. I will be happy to advise you on the itinerary.
  • Please refrain from asking how to get to the hotel you are staying at. I think that is the first thing to check when choosing a hotel. Also, I think that any hotel nowadays explains how to access it on the official website. First, try google the hotel name.
  • Please refrain from asking me which hotel to recommend. I can comment on the hotels I actually stayed at, but I can't judge on other hotels.
  • If you ask me the rail pass that fits your itinerary, please explain your travel plan in as much detail as possible. I can't choose the best pass on the rough itinerary.
  • I will not answer your question by email. I manage this website with a policy of sharing all information, including questions received from readers. Some readers read past comments carefully. Please note that I do not personally interact with readers.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*