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

Osaka, Kyoto, Kobe and Nara
It is Must-See spot in Kyoto. ©Sue Ann Simon/©JNTO
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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

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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.

Comments

  1. Chris says:

    Hi Takeshi-san,

    I have been doing a lot of reading and would appreciate your input. I am staying in Osaka for 4 days with 1 day trip to Kyoto and another day to Nara.

    To reduce the amount of walking, is the ICOCA+Haruka card the best option for me to get to these cities and getting around within the city?

    Cheers,
    Chris

  2. Rachel Tan says:

    Hi Takeshi,

    Good day!

    My plan itinerary is below. Could you advise which pass is recommended? Thank you very much.

    Day 1
    Kansai Airport to Kyoto
    Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine, Kiyomizudera,
    Yasaka Pagoda, Pontocho Alley

    Day 2
    Nara

    Day 3
    Arashiyama, Kinkakuji

    Day 4
    Umekoji Park, Nijio Castle, Nishiki Market
    Transfer to Tokyo

    Rachel

  3. Kelvin says:

    Dear Takeshi-san,

    Need your advice on which pass to use in Kyoto & Osaka. I am going to Kyoto & Osaka from 20 July – 27 July. Just come up with a draft itinerary below,

    Day 1
    Kansai Airport -> Kyoto
    Fushmi-Inari-Taisha Shrine
    The Fushimi Sake District
    Shijō Kawaramachi

    Day 2
    Arashiyama Bamboo Forest
    Yoiyama

    Day 3
    Kiyomizu-dera Temple
    Shijō-Karasuma area (downtown Kyoto)

    Day 4
    Kyoto -> Osaka
    Shitennoji Temple
    Shinsekai
    Dotonbori

    Day 5
    Osaka -> Kyoto
    Kyoto Shiyakusho-Mae for Gion Matsuri Procession
    Suntory Yamazaki Distillery
    Shinsaibashi

    Day 6
    Osaka Castle
    Osaka Tenmangu Shrine
    Tenjin Matsuri Land Procession

    Day 7
    Osaka -> Kansai Airport

    For Airport transfer, is it good to get the 2 ways Haruka pass in advance?
    Do you think it’s good idea to get the Kansai One Pass for traveling around Kyoto and Osaka?

    Thank you so much for your help in advance.

  4. Joy says:

    Dear Takeshi-san,

    I will be traveling in kansai area for 5 days & staying at Kyoto station.

    Day 1-
    Itami airport -> kyoto
    Visit inari shrine

    Day 2
    Day trip to Kobe and himeji

    Day 3
    Day trip to Nara & Rinku outlet

    Day 4
    Day trip to Osaka
    -Osaka castle, dotonburi, Shinsaibashi

    Day 5
    Explore Kyoto
    -arashimaya, kinkakuji, nishiki market, Kiyomizu-Dera temple, gion

    Day 6
    Kyoto-> kansai airport

    Do you think it’s a good idea to get the 2 day kansai area pass on days 2,3 and 2 day kansai thru pass on days 4,5? (Will the kansai thru pass cover bus from kitano hakubaicho station to kinkakuji?)

    I’m not sure what pass to get for day 1. I was thinking of getting icoca & haruka discount ticket one way (on day 6). Or would it be better if I just get the kansai area pass on day 1 as well?

    Do you know if I have to purchase the one way haruka discount ticket on the day 6 itself or I can purchase it in advance?

    Thank you so much for your help in advance 🙂

  5. Jessica Lee says:

    Dear Takeshi-san,

    I will be travelling to Kansai region from 8 to 19 Nov 2018. I have just come up with a draft itinerary below and I would like
    to get your advise on the passes that I should get:

    Day 1 (8 Nov thursday): evening flight to Kansai Airport (KIX)

    Day 2 (9 Nov friday): reach KIX about 7am. Stop by Uniqlo at the airport. After that, take train to osaka. Reach hostel about
    11am. Check in hostel and rest awhile. Start sightseeing and exploring Osaka (use Osaka Amazing Pass?).

    Day 3 (10 Nov sat ): After breakfast, start Osaka sightseeing. (use Osaka Amazing Pass?)

    Day 4 (11 Nov sun ): Today is mainly for shopping day – to explore shopping at duty free shops, department stores, Daiso, GU, local drug stores, supermarket, etc.

    Day 5 (12 Nov mon ): After breakfast, take trip to Nara. Reach Osaka by early evening. Can we still squeeze some time (maybe 2 hours) to go premium outlet in Osaka? Which premium outlet would you recommend?

    Day 6 (13 Nov tue): Universal Studios Japan for whole day. Checked the crowd predictor website and it suggests Tuesday has lesser crowd than Monday.

    Day 7 (14 Nov wed): check out Osaka hostel & take train to Kyoto. Check in hostel in kyoto & lunch. Explore kyoto from
    afternoon onwards: Maybe go to: Sanjo Ohashi Bridge, Sanjo Shopping Arcade, Nishiki Market.

    Day 8 (15 Nov thurs): Arashiyama Bamboo Grove, Tenryuji Temple, Sagano Romantic Train.

    Day 9 (16 Nov friday): Around Higashiyama, Fushimi Inari Shrine, Kiyomizu-Dera – we plan to rent kimono whole day from 11am to 5pm and take photos at these places. Do you think it is possible?

    Day 10 (17 Nov saturday): Tofukuji Temple, GINKAKUJI and Kinkaku-ji Temple

    Day 11 (18 Nov sunday ): day trip to Uji

    Day 12 (19 Nov mon): check out hostel early in morning for 1030am flight back home > take train to KIX

  6. Esther says:

    Hi Takeshi,

    Thank you for your fast information.

    From the link you give, it is correct if after i go out from subway karasuma train (B2F), i just go up to follow signane 30 ( haruka depart for tennoji in track 30 at kyoto station) until i found the track 30 (1F) ?

    Thank you in advance.

  7. Esther says:

    Hi Takeshi,

    Could you help me to give information how to change between karasuma subway train to haruka at kyoto station ?

    Thank you in advance.

  8. Sari says:

    Dear Takeshi,

    We are a family of 5 with 1 senior citizen, 1 toddler (3 year old), and 1 baby. We are planning to visit Osaka, Kyoto (Arashiyama) and Nara in April for 10 nights. We are staying in 2 different hotels. We will arrive in Kansai at around 9:30PM and our 1st hotel is around Minami-Morimachi Station. We will move to the 2nd hotel on the 6th day. The 2nd hotel is located around Sakaisuji – Honmachi Station.

    As for now, our itinerary is like this:

    Day 1 – Arrive and Rest

    Day 2 – Osaka Castle Park, Kids Plaza

    Day 3 – Universal Studio Osaka

    Day 4 – Explore Shinsaibashisuji, Dotonburi, Hozenji Yokocho, Doguyazuji Arcade

    Day 5 – Daytrip to Nara

    Day 6 – Umeda Sky Building, Grand Front Osaka (for lunch), Tenjibashisuji Shopping street, move to the 2nd hotel.

    Day 7 – Osaka Bay Area (Osaka Aquarium, Tempozan Ferris Wheel)

    Day 8 – Day trip to Kyoto Arashiyama (we initially wanted to visit Fushimi Inari.. but we reckon it wont be ideal with 2 young children and 1 senior citizen in tow)

    Day 9 – No plans

    Day 10 – Shinsekai, Abeno Harukas, Shintennoji

    Day 11 – Fly back home

    Kindly help to advise us on which cards should we get that would fit our itinerary?

    Thanks alot and looking forward to hear from you.

  9. Peter says:

    Hi, Takashi San,

    May need your advice on which pass to use in Kyoto. I am going to Kyoto & Osaka next month. Stay at Osaka near Namba area for 4 nights, day trip to Kyoto for two days.

    It’s very sure that I will use Osaka Amazing Pass for my 2 days Osaka Itinerary.

    My day trip to Kyoto itinerary:
    1) Fushimi Taisyi shrine, Gion, Kiyomizu-Dera temple

    2) Arashiyama (sagano romantic train) ,Nino Castle, Kinkaku-ji

    The sequence of days will be based on the ticket availability of sagano romantic car.

    Thank you in advance.

    Peter

  10. Cherry says:

    Hi Takeshi,
    Good day!
    We will be traveling to Osaka this March.I need some advice on what & where to ride the train. We will be staying in Minamihorie, Nishi Ward, Osaka. Our Itinerary are as follows :

    1st day – Dotonbori Area
    2nd day – Kyoto
    3rd Day – Nara
    4th Day – Kobe
    5th Day – Univeral Studio
    6th Day Umeda
    Please suggest what’s the best pass suitable for our trip.

    Thanks for your time.

    Cherry

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