How to catch a taxi in Kyoto: how much they cost, how to flag them down and how to make payment
Taxi © René Mayorga
- Kyoto is the easiest city on earth in which to catch a cab.
- There are taxi ranks outside most train stations, bus terminals and some larger shops. You can also flag taxis on just about any street in the city.
- The bus fare for four people is Y880 in central Kyoto. Meanwhile, it can cost less than Y1,000 to cover the same distance by taxi. Thus, it’s sometimes a better deal to take a taxi, especially when considering comfort and speed.
How To Take A Taxi In Kyoto
- You can wait in a taxi rank outside a train or bus station, but it’s often easiest to flag a taxi off the street. Just try to choose a place where the taxi can stop easily.
- Flagging a taxi is done like other places: just raise your hand at an oncoming taxi.
- At night, it’s easy to spot an open taxi: the light on the roof will be illuminated.
- In the daytime, it can be harder to tell if a taxi is open. Look for people inside the car and the light in the lower left corner of the windshield. It’s is free, the light will say: 空車 . If it’s full, it will say:賃走中 .
- You enter the taxi on the left side of the vehicle. The driver will open the door for you. There is no need to open it yourself.
- It helps to smile and say “Ohayo gozaimasu,” “Konnichi wa,” or “Konbanwa” when you board (good morning, hello or good evening, respectively). This will set the driver at ease.
- Most drivers know enough English to understand where you want to go, but it always helps to have someone write your destination in Japanese. If you’re returning to your hotel, just hand the driver the business card from your hotel.
- The driver will always turn on the meter and you do not have to worry about “being taken for a ride.” The meter will show the fare.
How Much Do Kyoto Taxis Cost And How Do You Pay?
- Most taxis cost Y640 for the first 2km. However, MK Taxis (721-2237) cost only Y580.
- All taxis accept cash, and some taxis also accept credit cards.
- It is not necessary to tip a taxi driver, but some people round up the change to the nearest round number.
How many people can fit inside a Kyoto taxi?
- Kyoto taxis come in three sizes: kogata (small: 小型 ), chugata (medium size: 中型 ), and ogata (large size: 大型 ). At some taxi ranks, like the one on the south side of Kyoto Station, there are different lines for each size taxis.
- Four people can fit into a kogata (small) taxi, while five people can fit into a chugata (medium) or ogata (large) taxi. Note, however, that some taxi drivers will refuse to allow five large foreigners into their taxi. In this case, you’ll have to take two different taxis. Note also that if the taxi in question lacks a bench seat in front, it will only be able to take four people, no matter how large the car is.
Chris Rowthorn’s Kyoto Taxi Tips
- There are a variety of taxi companies in Kyoto. Some independent drivers can be a little rude or uncomfortable with foreigners. In contrast, I’ve found MK Taxi drivers to be polite, prompt and often able to speak some English. I almost always opt for MK if I have a choice.
- During busy seasons, the taxi ranks on both sides of Kyoto Station can be packed. Rather than wait on the long line, I suggest walking a few blocks and hailing a cab off the street.
- The streets in the Higashiyama area are often gridlocked during cherry blossom season. Don’t take a taxi or bus in this area during this time: walk or take the subway.
- Most taxis in Kyoto now have satellite navigation systems. If you have the phone number or address of your destination (in Japanese), this will help the driver find your destination.
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)