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. Adela Uykingtian says:

    Hi! Takeshi,
    I would like to ask for some advice for our itinerary tour for Osaka( no need for USJ), Kyoto, Nara and Hiroshima.
    We will be arriving Osaka KIX aiport April 7, 2019 up to April 15, 2019.
    Buying so many kind of pass makes me more confused.
    Just wanted to have a memorable and stress free tours, especially with our age.
    Your help would be much appreciated.
    Thank you
    Adela

  2. Davina Manjaji says:

    Hi Takeshi,

    My friend and I were wondering whether we should get the bus pass (1 or 2 day) because we plan to buy Suica cards and reload them before heading off to Kyoto from Tokyo.
    We predicted that we’ll be arriving at Kyoto maybe 12PM and spend two nights there.

    So for two days, we plan to visit:
    Fushimi Inari Taisha, Kinkakuji, Arashiyama Bamboo Grove, Sannenzaka & Ninenzaka and Gion District, also checking out the Kyoto Streetfood

    Not sure if we should get the bus pass, or just use our Suica cards and keep reloading.

    Thank you in advance for your help.

    Best regards,
    Davina

    • Hi Davina,

      I think just Suica is okay. You can get the worth of 1 day bus pass by 3 rides of bus. But Fushimi and Arashiyama can be accessed by train. You will take a bus to get Kinkakuji. You can walk Gion and surrounding area.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  3. Rachel says:

    Konnichiwa Takeshi-san,

    I am planning to travel around Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto. I have already purchased JR pass and would like to get some recommendations whether to get a day pass for travelling around Kyoto and Osaka.

    Below is my brief itinerary for Kyoto and Osaka.

    Day 1 from Osaka to Kyoto

    Fushimi Inari Shrine
    Arashiyama Bamboo Forest
    Uji
    Downtown – Nishiki Market

    Day 2 from Osaka to Kyoto

    Yumeyakata Gojo
    Kiyomizudera Temple
    Ginkakuji Temple
    Gion District
    Minami district – Osaka

    Day 3 Osaka

    Osaka Castle
    Kita district
    Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan

    Thanks in advance.
    Regards,
    Rachel

  4. Mary Ann says:

    Hi Takeshi

    Hope this email finds you well. My family and me are traveling to Osaka/Kyoto next month. Hope you could give advise on what type of travel pass suitable for us. Append below is our itinerary.

    Day 1 – arrival at Kansai airport at 9.45 pm and travel to hotel near Namba area for 1 night stay.
    Day 2 to 4 – Travel from Osaka to Kyoto, stay 2 nights there.
    Day 4 – travel back to Osaka and stay for 5 nights.
    Day 5 – visit to USJ
    Day 6 – 8 sight seeing in Osaka
    Day 9 – end of trip. Leaving for Kansai airport

    Thank you.

  5. Nidhi says:

    Hi Takeshi,

    Would like your advise for which pass should I buy ?

    Please find below the detailed itinerary.

    Day 1
    Arrival at KIX @ night (stay near airport)

    Day 2
    Transfer to Kyoto (Haruka Express)
    Hotel in Higashiyama ( nearest train station Gion-Shijo & Kawamachi)
    Ginkakuji
    Philosophers Path
    Nanzenji
    Hean Shrine
    Back to hotel

    Day 3
    Arashiyama area from Hotel ( Bamboo grove, Sagano train etc)

    Day 4
    Inari
    Uji (sightseeing such as Byodoin Temple, River, Tea etc)

    Day 5
    Kinkakuji
    Ninnaji
    Ryoanji

    Day 6
    Trek to Kurama & Kibune (Eizan Line)
    Transfer to Osaka (hotel near Dotonbori)

    Day 7
    USJ

    Day 8
    Hiroshima & Miyajima
    Hiroshima Loop Bus

    Day 9
    Osaka Castle
    Transfer to KIX @ evening.

    Now I do have couple of ques

    1) which pass should I buy for Kyoto sightseeing ( Kansai One Pass, Keihan Pass, Kyoto subway 1/2 day pass)

    If I buy Kansai One Pass can that be used for JR bus to access Ryoanji etc?

    1a.) Will I save money as per my itinerary if I buy 1/2 day pass or Kansai Area Pass instead Kansai One Pass)

    1c.) Can I buy Kansai One Pass outside Japan?

    1d.) Haruka discount ticket is needed to buy separately with Kansai One pass ?

    2) Planning to buy Kansai Hiroshima Pass ( which will be valid Day 5 to Day 9) as per my itinerary, is this the best pass to buy ?

    3) Can seats be reserved through this Hiroshima pass ?

    4) Is Hiroshima loop bus included in the Kansai Hiroshima Pass.

    I have only few days left for my trip.

    Appreciate your help.

    Nidhi

  6. Samantha says:

    Hi Takeshi-san,

    Your advice please for the following itinerary:

    Day 1
    Arrive KIX at 6pm, travel to accommodation at Nishiyamanomaecyou Oomiya Kitaku, Kyoto city.

    Day 2
    Southern Higashiyama, Downtown and Fushimi-Inari (Back to Nishiyamanomaecyou Oomiya Kitaku, Kyoto City)

    Day 3
    Arashiyama, Kinkaku-ji and Daitoku-ji (Back to Nishiyamanomaecyou Oomiya Kitaku, Kyoto City)

    Day 4
    Kurama, Kibune and Northern Higashiyama (Back to Nishiyamanomaecyou Oomiya Kitaku, Kyoto City)

    Day 5
    Nara (Back to Nishiyamanomaecyou Oomiya Kitaku, Kyoto City)

    Day 6
    Kitaku, Kyoto City to check-in next accommodation at Yodogawa-ku, Ōsaka-shi, move around Osaka area in the afternoon/evening (e.g.Namba)

    Day 7
    Hiroshima (back to Yodogawa-ku, Ōsaka-shi)

    Day 8
    Himeji (back to Yodogawa-ku, Ōsaka-shi)

    Day 9
    Kobe (back to Yodogawa-ku, Ōsaka-shi)

    Day 10
    USJ (back to Yodogawa-ku, Ōsaka-shi)

    Day 11
    Depart KIX 3pm (from (back to Yodogawa-ku, Ōsaka-shi)

    Please advise on the sequence of locations/visits too in order to maximize the passes that you recommend.

    Thank you in advance for your kind assistance.

    Regards,
    Samantha

  7. Sue says:

    Hi:

    I would appreciate your advice re. optimal pass/tickets I should have for the following plan.
    I will have a JR Pass which I will use in between cities and where useful in Kyoto.

    – in Kyoto – 7 days
    – 4 day trips from Kyoto:
    – Nara
    – Himeji
    – Osaka
    – Enryaku-Ji Temple

    Thanks in advance and Happy New Year!

  8. Angela says:

    Hi Takeshi,

    I would like to seek your advice on what pass should I get. Here is my itinerary.

    Day 1
    Arrive in KIX airport ETA 5am
    Base: Kyoto (hence I will purchase ICOCA and HARUKA card)
    – Higashiyama Jisho-ji
    -Zenrinji temple
    -Heian Shrine
    -Kiyomizudera
    -Fushimi Inari Taisha

    Day 2: Osaka
    Universal Studios
    Dotonbori

    Day 3: Nara
    Nara park
    Hike Mt. Wakakusa

    Day 4:
    Bamboo forest
    Hike Daimonjyama (optional)
    evening- go back to KIX airport T1

    Just wondering what other passes should I get aside from the ICOCA and Haruka? Thank you in advance. 🙂

  9. Chris says:

    Hello Takeshi!

    Hopefully you can shed some light on my travel pass purchases!

    I will be arriving at KIX on March 17th, 2019 and planning to spend a few days in Kyoto, then 2 days in Osaka before leaving KIX on March 24th.
    My thoughts are are follows:

    – March 17th: arrive KIX in afternoon; from KIX to Kyoto (Icoca/Haruka one-way pass)

    – March 18th to 21st: travel around Kyoto (Kyoto Sightseeing 2-day pass, bought twice for 4
    days use total, supplement with Icoca if needed). ie. use Icoca if going to Uji

    – March 22nd: travel to Osaka (one way on JR Kyoto Special Rapid);

    – March 22 and 23: move around Osaka (Icoca or Osaka one-day pass)

    – March 24th: go to KIX (dependant on which area we decide to stay)

    Any suggestions to amend my plans are appreciated!

    Thanks 🙂

    Chris

  10. Grace says:

    HI Takeshi, would like your advise on the passes that we should get.
    We are family of 5 (2 adults, 2 teenagers and 1 child (5yr old).
    Below is our itinerary:
    Day1 (22Dec) :
    – Arriving KIX at night (10pm)
    – To Hotel nearby Kyoto Station
    Transport by private hired car (considering luggages and time)

    Day2 (23Dec):
    – Kinkaku-ji (Golden pavilion)
    – Tetsugaku-no-michi (Philosopher’s walk)
    – Kyoto Museum of Traditional Crafts Fureikan
    – Arashiyama Bamboo Grove
    – back to hotel (Kyoto Station)
    Transport by JR pass ? OR subways?

    Day3 (24Dec):
    – Legoland Nagoya (day trip)
    – back to hotel (Kyoto Station)
    Transport by JR pass ? OR better option?

    Day4 (25Dec):
    – Nara Deer Park (half day trip)
    – Fushimi Inari Taisha
    – Nishiki Market (traditional market)
    – Gion geisha
    – Maruyama Park
    – Shijo Dori Boulevard
    – back to hotel (Kyoto Station)
    Transport by JR pass ? OR better option?

    Day5 (26Dec):
    – From Kyoto to Kanazawa Station
    – Kenrokuen Garden
    – 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art
    – Kanazawa Castle
    – Omicho Ichiba
    – Higashi Chaya-gai
    – Hyakubangai shopping mall
    – Korinbo and Katamachi commercial district
    Transport by JR pass ? and Kanazawa local pass?

    Day6 (27Dec):
    – From Kanazawa Station
    – Shirakawago
    – Gokayama
    Transport by NOHI bus ? covered by JR pass?

    Day7 (28Dec):
    – From Kanazawa Station
    – to Shin – OSAKA (hotel)
    – Kids Plaza Osaka
    – Dotombori
    Transport by JR pass ? and local pass?

    Day8 (29Dec):
    – From shin-osaka (hotel)
    – KIX airport (4pm flight)
    Transport by (private hire car) OR JR Pass?

    Please advise on our planned itinerary above if getting JR pass would fit and worth ? you may have better suggestion on which passes to get ? Please suggest what’s the best pass suitable for our trip.
    Please also suggest on the trains that we should be using for daytrips to Nara and Legoland.

    Appreciate your help.

    Grace

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