Kyoto buses are a useful way of getting around the city. Download an online Kyoto bus map for free to help you plan your journey.
Kyoto Bus: Yasemin Olgunoz Berber / Shutterstock.com
- See the Kyoto Transport Overview for a general summary of Kyoto transport.
- Unless you’ve got a rental bicycle, buses are the best way to get to destinations not served by subway or train lines.
- Take the train or subway instead of the bus whenever possible. Trains and subways are faster and more comfortable than buses.
- Take the bus to the northwest of town (Kinkaku-ji Temple, Ryoan-ji Temple, Myoshin-ji Temple etc).
- Take the bus to the northeast of town (Ginkaku-ji Temple, Honen-in Temple, Manshu-in Temple, Shisen-do Temple, Shugaku-in Temple).
- If you have a group of three or four people, consider taking a taxi instead of a bus for short journeys. The price is about the same and you’ll get there faster and in more comfort.
- If you plan to use the bus a lot, you should probably buy yourself a bus pass. For more details, see our Special Kyoto Bus, Train and Subway passes page
- Arm yourself with an English-language bus map. The map is called: Bus Navi: Kyoto City Bus Sightseeing Map. Pick up a hardcopy version of this map at the Kyoto Bus Information Center, just outside Kyoto Station.
Download an English-Language Kyoto City Bus Map:
How To Use The Kyoto City Bus
- Enter at the rear of the bus.
- Use coins to pay your fare into the box at the front next to the driver. The machine next to the driver will change Y500 coins and Y1000 notes.
- Exit at the front of the bus.
- When you want to get off, press the button next to your seat, on the poles or on the ceiling of the bus (you’ll known them when you see them).
- There is a flat fare for buses in the city center: Y220/110 for adults/children aged 6 to 12. Children under 6 ride for free.
- For destinations outside the city center, take a seiriken (a small numbered paper ticket) from the machine near the door where you board. Use the number of the ticket to calculate the fare when you get off. Put the ticket into the fare box along with your fare.
- Some bus stops have signs that indicate when buses are approaching the stop. All bus stops have bus timetables written in Japanese with English route numbers (so you can read them even if you don’t speak Japanese). The schedules list times for weekdays ( 平日 ), Saturdays ( 土曜日 ), and Sundays/holidays ( 日曜日 / 祝祭日).
- Three-digit bus numbers on a red background indicate loop lines. Two digit numbers on a blue background are usually north-south lines.
- Take care when you board buses: Kyoto city buses are green; Keihan buses are red and white; Kyoto buses (which serve point north of the city) are tan.
Chris Rowthorn’s Kyoto Bus Tip
Kyoto city bus #5 is almost always crowded with residents and tourists. If you’re going to the northern Higashiyama area, take the subway from Kyoto Station.
Take the Karasuma Subway Line to Karasuma-Oike Station, switch to the Tozai Subway Line and get off at Higashiyama (for the museum district) or Keage (for Nanzen-ji Temple and the Path of Philosophy/Ginkaku-ji Temple.
You can also take the Keihan Line to Demachiyanagi Station and walk to Ginkaku-ji in about 15 minutes (follow Imadegawa-dori east to the mountains).
Kyoto Vacation Checklist
- For all the essentials in a brief overview, see my First Time In Kyoto guide
- Check Kyoto accommodation availability on Booking.com - usually you can reserve a room with no upfront payment. Pay when you check out. Free cancellations too.
- Need tips on where to stay? See my one page guide Where To Stay In Kyoto
- See my comprehensive Packing List For Japan
- Buy a data-only SIM card online for collection when you arrive at Kansai International Airport (for Osaka and Kyoto) or Tokyo's Narita Airport. Or rent an unlimited data pocket wifi router.
- Compare Japan flight prices and timings to find the best deals
- If you're visiting more than one city, save a ton of money with a Japan Rail Pass - here's my explanation of why it's worth it
- Get travel insurance for Japan - we recommend World Nomads (and here's why)