In addition to buses and taxis, Kyoto offers two subway lines to travel around the city. The Karasuma Line (North & South) and the Tozai Line (West, East, and Southeast) stop at 31 different stations around Kyoto. A map of the subway lines along with bus routes can be found here.
A one-day pass to ride the subway is ¥600. Another option is purchasing a one-day subway and bus combination pass for ¥900. Otherwise, single use fares will run between ¥210 and ¥350 per trip.
Subway Operating Times
The Kyoto subways run about 5:30 a.m. until almost midnight daily. It is a fast and convenient way to move around the city. It will take around two minutes to travel from station to station. You can review more specific station travel information here.
Limitations of the Subway System
The two subway lines are great for moving around central Kyoto to some of the popular attractions and areas. It can be faster to take the subway to reach certain areas of Kyoto that would otherwise require a long bus ride. However, the subway system does not stop at every place in Kyoto you may want to visit. A combination of using the subway along with buses or renting a bicycle is worth considering to maximize your time.
Kyoto, Japan is a top destination for many tourists. It is a fantastic city to indulge in the rich history, arts, and culture of Japan. One of the main forms of transportation in Kyoto is the extensive bus system. Buses run to the majority of sight-seeing destinations. However, figuring out the correct bus number and route can be quite challenging.
Understanding Kyoto Bus Routes
The most important piece of advice for any tourist is to get an English language copy of the Kyoto Bus Route Map. You can get one at the main hub at Kyoto Station. You can also download the front and back side from this link. It is highly recommended to print off a color copy to take with you, download to a mobile device, or get a paper copy when you first arrive at Kyoto Station. It is normal to feel overwhelmed looking over the bus route map. The bus routes are color-coded to help understand their loops. Try to focus on a few specific bus routes rather than everything available. The main tourist buses are the Raku Bus #100, #101, and #102. They go to the major tourist sites. Be aware that they stop running between 4:30 and 5:00 p.m. After that time frame, you need to board one of the other bus numbers along the route that run through the evening. Buses in Kyoto stop running around 11 p.m. Some other good bus options for sightseeing are the #205, #206, and #208. These buses also stop around 5 p.m. Once the main loop buses mentioned stop running for the evening, buses can fill up quickly and not allow you on (especially during peak tourist season). When this happens, you should consider other transportation options such as the subway, taxis, or even walking.
Payment Methods and Riding Kyoto Buses
A easy to follow guide on how to board the bus and pay a fare can be found here. Most importantly, you enter from the back of the bus and exit from the front after paying for a fare. It is highly recommended to buy a one-day bus pass for ¥500. Generally, one-way fares will cost ¥230. You can save some money simply by boarding a bus three times with a one-day pass. You may also purchase a one-day pass (¥900) or two-day pass (¥1,700) that covers rides on buses and subways. One thing worth noting is that buses and cars are driven on the left side of the road. It is very easy to board a bus going in the wrong direction if you are not familiar with left-side driving.