Kyoto is well-known for being a very walkable city, with few hills and tall buildings. But visitors also have a wealth of options when it comes to public transportation, from the Kyoto subway, to Kyoto City Buses, to a number of other train lines that run throughout the city.
Find out how to navigate Kyoto after you’ve arrived at Kyoto Station, and how to make use of the city’s various sightseeing passes!
(Portions of the subway run aboveground)
You can transfer to the Kyoto subway as soon as you arrive at Kyoto Station (for access information from Kansai International and other airports, click here. For access from Tokyo, Osaka, and other cities, click here). Unlike Tokyo or Osaka, Kyoto’s subway system is quite simple, consisting of just two lines: the Tozai Line, which runs east-west, and the Karasuma Line, which runs north-south. See below for a map of the subway in Kyoto:
The Tozai and Karasuma lines are a good entryway into the city, and can take you close to a number of sightseeing locations–Shijo Station will put you in the middle of downtown, Marutamachi Station is just beside the Kyoto State Guest House and Kyoto Imperial Palace, Nijo-jo-mae Station will get you to Nijo Castle, and so on!
The subway lines also connect to regular train lines: the southernmost stop on the Karasuma Line is Takeda Station, which connects to the Kintetsu Kyoto Line, which you can ride to Nara. The Tozai Line stop Sanjo Keihan connects to the Keihan Main Line, which you can ride from Kyoto to Osaka.
To buy subway tickets individually (see information about Kyoto tourist passes below!), use the ticket machines near the subway gates—fares from the station you’re in will be displayed on a signboard above the machines. Ticket machines are cash only, and don’t accept credit cards. Once you’ve inserted cash into the machine, press the button with the correct fare for your destination, and the machine will print out your ticket and return your change. Paper tickets should be inserted into a slit in the turnstile as you pass into the subway, but re-chargeable IC cards can be tapped on top of the turnstile reader.
When Kyoto’s subways don’t quite reach your destination, it’s time to take the bus!
Kyoto is serviced by a number of different bus companies:
Kyoto City Bus
Kyoto City Bus provides service to a wide area across the city, from downtown to major sightseeing locations in every direction.
Kyoto Bus provides services to northern Kyoto City (Iwakura, Kurama and Ohara) and the Arashiyama area.
Keihan Bus provides services from the center of the city to the Yamashina area, east of Kyoto.
JR Bus provides services from the center of the city to Takao and Keihoku. This line connects Kyoto Station to Ninna-ji Temple, and the northwestern Takao and Togano-o areas. These areas include a number of historical spots, and famous locations for cherry blossoms and colorful autumn leaves. Japan Rail Pass holders can use their passes on JR buses, too!
You can pay for a bus ride in cash when you get off the bus, of course, but you can also save a lot of money with a sightseeing pass!
Kyoto Sightseeing Passes
Kyoto Subway + Bus Day Passes
Adults: 900 yen (One day), 1700 yen (Two days)
Children: 450 yen (One day), 850 yen (Two days)
Get a sightseeing pass for Kyoto buses and the subway, and move about the city with ease!
This pass can be used for unlimited rides on both buses and subways in Kyoto for one or two consecutive days. See more information here.
The one-day pass can be purchased in Kyoto subway stations, bus stations, and service offices. For a complete list, see here.
Kyoto Subway One-Day Pass
Adults: 600 yen
Children: 300 yen
One-day passes are also available for unlimited rides on the subway system alone, but include the added benefit of discount rates when you visit The Museum of Kyoto, Kyoto Aquarium, Kyoto International Manga Museum for all visitors; and discount rates for adult visitors to Kyoto City Zoo, Nijo-jo Castle, The Kyoto Municipal Museum of Art, Gion Corner, and Murin-an Garden.
Kyoto subway passes can be purchased in subway stations or at the Kyoto Station Bus Information Center.